The following impressions continue our ongoing review of Life is Strange 2. Once the full season is complete, Shacknews will then have a final cumulative score for the game as a whole. Be sure to catch up with our impressions for Roads, if you haven't already.
Life is Strange 2 has resumed with its tale of two brothers on the run, sprinkling in additional dramatic elements while also capably weaving in another of Dontnod's recent stories. While I'm still somewhat sour on the first episode, the second episode does a slightly better job of pushing its central narrative forward. Unfortunately, even with the childlike optimism of Chris and his Captain Spirit persona, I found the second episode, Rules, to be something of a dour experience.
Part of that could be because Rules set its tone early and it was a downer. It doesn't really get much darker than a puppy getting mauled to death by a wild animal in the opening sequence. The game doesn't get any lighter over the subsequent two hours, either. The second episode doesn't shy away from dark and heavy material and sometimes it feels a tad overwhelming.
That's not to say that Rules doesn't carry out its central theme effectively. As its title implies, the episode's premise is that Daniel has discovered his supernatural powers and is learning how to control them. Dontnod will frequently assert that the LiS series is not a sci-fi tale or anything along those lines. However, this episode is carried by the traditional superhero chestnut of power and using it responsibly. There are numerous moments where Daniel can use his power in a careless manner, but hiding them isn't just a matter of hiding the two brothers from the law. It's about not wanting to hurt others around them. This idea is carried through better here than in a lot of superhero fiction, which is commendable.
Speaking of superhero fiction, Rules does a good job of seamlessly tying in The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, putting that game's ending in a whole new light. While Chris isn't the story's main protagonist, the opportunity to continue his story is welcome. It's also nice to bring in any customized elements from the Captain Spirit game, like Chris' costume, making it feel like a true continuation.
(This is where I should note that I did not have a Captain Spirit save handy, as I realized too late that my save file was on my Xbox One, not my PlayStation 4. Regardless, the Captain Spirit story was spliced in well into my Life is Strange 2 experience.)
The second episode continues to exercise some of Life is Strange's innovations, like the idea that time still unfolds while discovering an area. Characters continuing to interact with one another while exploring remains a cool idea that sprinkles in a sense of realism. It isn't always carried out in the cleanest manner, as I did bump into a few instances where a conversation with two characters is unfolding and one of them stops in mid-syllable to point out something unreleated in the environment before picking right back up. But for the most part, this mechanic continues to be one of the big highlights of Season 2 so far.
And of course, Life is Strange 2 continues to be at its best when it focuses on the interactions between Sean and Daniel. It's even more effective this time around with Sean acting as both a parental figure and a superhero mentor. There are plenty of chances for Sean to interact with his brother, including many instances where Sean has exclusive sibling interactions with certain objects.
The Life is Strange 2 narrative still hasn't quite won me over. While I've cooled off on certain plot points, with the story capably explaining why the two kids can't simply stay with family to try and fight what's happening, there's still something about the ultimate goal that feels unsettling. And it's something that to me, as someone of Mexican descent, still feels like it has a slightly racist undertone to it. However, as a tale of two brothers, Life is Strange 2 is faring well, with Rules acting as a strong chapter in Sean and Daniel's journey.
These impressions are based on a PlayStation 4 code provided by the publisher. Life is Strange 2 is available now on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch for $39.99 for all five episodes. The game is rated M.