Life is Strange Episode One was a graphic adventure title with a difference. Eschewing the modern-day trappings of male leads and post-apocalyptic landscapes, it offered a refreshingly down-to-earth tale of Everyday Hero, Max Caulfield, a high-school student whose humdrum life was shaken to the core upon discovering she could wield the power of time travel. The first chapter in Max’s adventure was definitely a proof of concept, with developer Dontnod Entertainment laying down the foundation of this intriguing game mechanic, as well as the backdrop of Arcadia Bay and Max’s eclectic range of classmates and friends. Now the groundwork has been cemented, how does the series progress with the introduction of Episode Two: Out of Time?
Max’s surreal adventure kicks off the day after Episode One, which wrapped with our 18-year-old heroine confiding in her ‘BFF,’ Chloe Price, regarding her new-found powers. After taking a shower, things really get underway as you go to meet Chloe at her mother’s diner in town, which forms a decent chunk of Out of Time—-away from school grounds, as Max and Chloe hang out and come to terms with recent revelations. If Episode One established characters and their place in Max’s life, then Episode Two undoubtedly attempts to flesh them out, with plenty of time given to not only Chloe, but fellow classmates such as Kate Marsh, a religious girl who has been the victim of bullying from the resident school bitch, Victoria Chase.
In fact, this is very much Kate’s story as much as it is Max at this point. While Out of Time interweaves several plot strands—from the mysterious security guard, the on-going feud with Nathan Prescott, to Chloe’s missing friend—the centrepiece of Episode Two is Kate’s struggle to cope with the ridicule she faces after a video of her snogging various boys at a party goes viral. It’s here that Life is Strange flexes its characterization muscles, with Kate’s fragile mental stage teetering precariously as she is subjected to all manner of abuse from her classmates, resulting in a sympathetic character who is easy to care about and more importantly, you want to help.
There’s powerful scenes to be had between Max and Kate as you attempt to give her a helping hand, although depending on how you handle things, the episode can potentially conclude with tragic consequences. This is what makes Episode Two such a strong follow-up; your choices do matter, and the ramifications of your actions in the previous chapter send more than a few ripples as we catch up with Max the next day. Those of you who shopped Nathan to the Principle in the previous episode will get more than a few headaches from the rich kid here, to say the least.
Of course, there’s the small matter of convincing your loudmouth friend, Chloe, that you can wield the power to rewind time. Still incredulous after your revelation the previous night, Chloe needs more proof, which leads to a couple of Episode Two’s ‘puzzle’ sequences as you rewind time and to ‘guess’ what’s in her pockets, and predict a series of events that will transpire in the next 30 seconds in the diner. It’s a fun little segment, and at least requires you to pay attention to smaller details going on; mess it up and you’ll have to repeat the process, leading to a trial and error mentality. Indeed, that’s the case with a lot of Life is Strange’s small puzzles. Other situations aren’t so interesting, like collecting bottles for a mock firing range at a junkyard, or having to watch Chloe nearly get run over by a train as you rewind time over again to figure out how to save her. Indeed, Episode One had much more fun in this respect, such as the part where you had to ‘remove’ Miss Chase from the girls’ dorm entrance. Still, they’re few and far between, and don’t marr the solid narrative that underlines Episode Two.
Out of Time is at its best when it presents you with some truly impactful choices, none of which comes close to the ending sequence. Without spoiling it too much, Max is temporarily stripped of her powers, leaving you to converse with a fellow student on the verge of losing it—all without the ability to rewind your mistakes. It’s an emotionally-charged, stripped back sequence that really places emphasis on characterization, and you’ll be forced to live with things if you mess up based on your choices. Here, the script is powerful, raw, and delivers some gut wrenching performances from all involved.
Arcadia Bay itself gets to shine a bit more this time around, as Max heads into town and explores a few of the surrounding areas. Again, while not technically the most eye-watering series out there, Life is Strange’s art direction is superb, with the hand-drawn visuals conjuring a dreamy, nostalgic backdrop to all the time-travelling shenanigans. It’s just a pity you can’t explore more of the town and have a natter with its residents, as Max’s path is blocked by a ubiquitous case of invisible wall syndrome.
Voice acting remains top notch, with some shining performances by not only Max, but also the grief-ridden Kate; Chloe remains mildly irritating, but it’s evident that her brash exterior is hiding a softer side, which occasionally manifests itself, resulting in some touching scenes. Again, the indie soundtrack acts as an ideal companion to the contemporary setting, and especially meshes nicely with Max’s ‘hipster’ appeal. There’s also plenty of Trophies to earn and pictures to take to add to your scrapbook, which should keep you coming back for more once you’ve finished the episode once.
At the end of the day, Out of Time is another solid entry to Life is Strange’s compelling tale, and definitely left me eager to find out what happens to Max in the next episode. While the action sags a bit in the middle due to some tiresome puzzle sequences, the plot, character development, and sumptuous art direction make this an enjoyable second romp in Arcadia Bay, with an emotional climax that is not to be missed.