Life is Strange review-in-progress - 'Dark Room' impressions

Life is Strange has taken some unexpected turns in the game's latest episode, Dark Room. Do the sudden tonal shifts necessarily lead to a better story? Check out our ongoing review.


Catch up with our ongoing review for Life is Strange: Episode 1, Episode 2, and Episode 3

Through its first three episodes, Life is Strange has been a tale of teenage drama, sprinkled in with a couple of supernatural elements in the form of a time-rewinding mechanic. However, the fourth episode, "Dark Room," lives up to its name more than expected. The story has taken a decidedly dark turn with the fourth episode, ending in a shocking cliffhanger that players will likely have not seen coming.

More interesting yet is that Life is Strange's fourth episode continues the game's trend of mixing up its puzzles and scenarios from what was used previously. That keeps it from plunging into the pitfall of repetition. Combined with honest-to-goodness twists, brilliant writing, and gutwrenching moments, Dontnod is making a strong case for Life is Strange as a potential top game for 2015.

If the second episode introduced the idea that Max's rewind powers are not to be abused, "Dark Room" outright hammered that point home. In fact, the rewind mechanic felt slightly more restrained for this particular episode, with only a couple of puzzles (and one particularly intense conversation sequence) really requiring it to progress forward. While Life is Strange was largely sold on the premise of a teenager that can rewind time, the main character has evolved to such a point to realize that such a great power should only be used responsibly.

With that said, Dark Room's puzzles rely more on the power of deduction. With some prime detective work and some valuable surveillance data, the primary puzzles rely on deductive logic and matching up certain elements to string together a sequence of events. It's unlike anything the game has introduced to this point and it fits in perfectly well with the story being told.

What did not work quite so well were a couple of memorization puzzles. There was more than one instance in which Max had to figure out a password or a PIN number. Some of these featured clues, but some of them also just threw out several number combinations, as if the player needed to simply throw them out there until stumbling on the right one. This is the one type of puzzle that Life is Strange has seemingly relied on a little too much, but with the plot starting to thicken, it's one that may very well go by the wayside for the game's concluding episode.

There was one other idea that rubbed me the wrong way and that was an early sequence involving a teased alternate reality. Without spoiling the major decision that needs to be made in the game's opening minutes, it felt like something that should have had more gravitas, given that some people really do go through this particular struggle at some point in their lives. It's a very heavy decision and one that the game simply left to the player as a random choice with little to no consequences, given that everything was simply about to go back to the way it was anyway. It's definitely something that feels heavy as it's unfolding, but once everything reverts to the status quo, it starts to feel like it was just tacked on.

But that's not to say Life is Strange's fourth episode does not have heavy moments that will have major consequences on the overarching story. The story has gone from teenage drama to a compelling mystery and now appears to be taking a turn towards horror. The tone is changing significantly and it's a change that will have players marking their calendars for Life is Strange's final episode, which is set to release in September.

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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