Platforms PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Developer Dontnod Entertainment Publisher Square Enix
Genre Point and Click Adventure Platform Played On PC
If you have not taken the time to sit down and play the first three episodes of Life is Strange, you should be aware that this review has spoilers!
As Life is Strange Episode 4: Dark Room opens, time traveling heroine Max is struggling to deal with the alternate reality she created at the end of Episode 3. She and the player are led through a harrowing experience in which none of the events of the previous episodes even happened. Though Chloe’s father is alive and well, the blue-haired spitfire that Max saves from Nathan in Episode 1 is nowhere to be found. In the alternate reality, Chloe is a shell of the vibrant, passionate girl we have previously met.
The alternate reality opening picks up right where the last episode left off, and the momentum works to its advantage. There is no leisurely paced morning routine to settle players (and Max) back into the events of the game, we are simply dropped back into a storm of action and emotion. If you are a little rusty on the details, I recommend going back and playing through at least the last episode to refresh your memory. After using her power in an attempt to set things back on track, Max finds herself back with Chloe, and returns her focus to the search for Rachel Amber. The realization that she can’t meddle too much with time sticks with Max, however, and it’s nice to see that she’s learning to be more cautious with her ability.
Consequences of choices made in earlier episodes continue to play out, but there is a sense that the story is not set in stone, even without the option of time travel. For example, it is possible to mend fences with Arcadia Bay’s resident drug dealer, Frank, if the correct conversational choices are selected. In one scenario, he even offers the girls his help. It is moments like these in which Life is Strange continues to shine; Frank is no longer a one-dimensional drug dealer, and Nathan is not simply a spoiled rich kid, but it is only through exploration and effort that this is discovered at all.
Speaking of exploration and effort, the smaller puzzles within Dark Room are the best ones yet. Everything the girls have found so far is tacked up on a board, and it is the player’s job to put the clues together and sort out the relevant information. Unlike the inexplicable egg hunt around the Price home in Episode 3, the problem solving feels like important detective work. There are also, of course, a few moments where Max must use her power to overcome some more physical obstacles. The balance between supernatural problem solving and good, old-fashioned critical thinking makes the world feel even more believable.
The game does a good job of ramping up the tension slowly but steadily as Dark Room plays out. Max and Chloe’s search brings them into close contact with quite a few dangerous people, and despite Max’s powers, I kept expecting them to get caught snooping around. After a few important revelations that only left more questions, however, the girls made it to the End of the World party. That said, not a lot is mentioned about the impending apocalyptic tornado until the girls arrive at Blackwell and observe two moons rising in the night sky.
Overall, Dark Room is perhaps the strongest episode of Life is Strange so far. Story and gameplay mechanics come together almost seamlessly to present an immersive and enjoyable–if incredibly dark, installment of Max and Chloe’s story. Though the strange weather and rising frequency of bizarre animal behavior is set aside for a majority of Dark Room, we never quite forget that something even more horrifying than our villain is on the horizon. If you have not tried Life is Strange yet, I suggest you hop on Steam and grab a copy, because Episode 5 is bound to be great.
- Multifaceted characters
- Suspenseful atmosphere
- Engaging puzzles
- We still have to wait for Episode 5