Life is Strange 'Out of Time' impressions - teenage wasteland

Life is Strange turns up the emotion for its second episode, "Out of Time," offering a gutwrenching climax while finding interesting new ways to utilize Max Caulfield's rewind powers.

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The first episode of Life is Strange offered an intriguing teen drama, albeit one mixed in with some supernatural elements. But it mostly focused on a teen girl's struggle to grow up in a private academy and cope with all of the craziness unfolding around her. Square Enix and Dontnod Entertainment stepped this idea up further in the second episode, titled "Out of Time." Max Caulfield's daily life only grew more complicated on her second day, as the mystery surrounding the approaching apocalypse only intensified.

For as much as the second episode focused on Max and her reunion with best friend Chloe, it was as much about classmate Kate Marsh, who was at the receiving end of a real world kind of harassment. She went to a Vortex Club party against her better judgment, she got into trouble that may not have been of her own doing, and her exploits were posted in an online video that went viral. All of this can be overwhelming to a young teenager and it's the kind of thing that hits very hard for anyone that experienced anything close to that kind of humiliation. While there are hints that Kate's trials are somehow tied to the overarching mystery of Rachel Amber's disappearance, this functions far better as a self-contained story arc and actually makes this episode function just as well as a standalone experience as it does a part of the greater narrative.

As one might imagine, decisions from the previous episode carry over to "Out of Time," though it may be difficult to notice. The "Previously on" segment even manages to omit any instances of major decisions made in the first episode. But Dontnod manages to continue the gradual progression of major plot points, including the slow reveal of Nathan Prescott's power over the school and the degree of control that David Madsen wants over student surveillance. As far as conversations with others go, Max's rewind powers feel like something of an afterthought, but they are put into use towards the end of this episode to some amusing results.

Dontnod also practiced a few different uses for Max's rewind powers beyond altering conversation courses. The main puzzle mechanic involved Max proving her abilities to Chloe, which led to a couple of memory-based puzzles. While in the Two Whales diner, Max had to take note of exactly what was in Chloe's pockets and later had to recall a sequence of events in specific detail before rewinding and pointing them out in detail. This was a practical and creative use of Max's powers and greatly added to the gameplay aspect of this episode. The gameplay aspect only took a dip when it focused more on silly fetch objectives, with one specifically having Max search for bottles around a junkyard for Chloe to shoot at.

But the biggest addition that "Out of Time" makes is the implication that Max's rewind powers are not to be abused and are even subject to failure. As the episode progresses, Max will get more and more nosebleeds as she strains herself through the overuse of her abilities. The episode's major climax (which will not be spoiled here) even sees her powers fail completely, meaning any decisions and fallout from them in this instance are absolutely for keeps. There are no takebacks in this instance, which undoes one of the major grievances from the last episode that Max could simply use her power as a crutch. Sometimes the power isn't there and if Max glossed over any details or brushed anything off, there is a very real price to pay.

After meeting a handful of new characters, getting to know a few familiar ones, and honing Max's abilities, the question of how all of the major story arcs converge isn't any more clear at the end of "Out of Time" as it was prior to its beginning. There's an apocalyptic tornado coming, there's a missing student out there, and Max somehow has the ability to rewind time, but how all of these events are connected is still a mystery.

"Out of Time" has some faults, like a few mundane tasks and dialogue that still feels very unnatural in places, but the greater narrative is picking up nicely. The memorable moments in this episode are ones that'll be remembered by anyone that remotely experienced anything similar, making "Out of Time" feel staggeringly human. The third episode should be an interesting one to observe, given that the climax will likely send players on two distinctly different paths, but if it's as emotionally gutwrenching as "Out of Time," players will want to mark their calendars for its May release.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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