Review: Life is Strange Episode 2: Out of Time
Episode 1 flirts with the dramatic potential that the small town of Arcadia Bay has to offer, Episode 2: Out of Time takes a turn to the dark side.
Bullied bible basher Kate Marsh steps into the spotlight in this episode, or more that we take a look into the shadows of her life, as she plays a much more prominent role in Out of Time. With previously brief interactions in Episode 1: Chrysalis, the most we see of Kate is through hurtful graffiti that someone has made a point of scrawling throughout Blackwell Academy. Now however, Max is invited to glimpse behind the veil to understand the trials and tribulations of Kate Marsh’s day to day life. A blend of drugs, partying and a viral video has driven Kate to the brink and she is to the point of begging Max for help.
Now it’s easy for players to overlook Kate’s plight, as Max has closer friends to worry about, the mystery of the missing girl, and visions of an impending natural disaster to contend with. However this is the beauty of Life is Strange. Throughout Out of Time (and Chrysalis for that matter) there are subtle opportunities for Max to support Kate even before she knows her humiliating situation.
These opportunities are voluntary, and despite the helpful butterfly icon to inform players that their action will have consequences, are up to the player’s conscience as to whether they wish to involve Max. That being said, you’d have to have a heart of stone not to lend a hand after some of the truly brutal decisions that Life is Strange demands of Max, effecting the students of Blackwell, and ultimately Max’s own future.
For gameplay dedicated to rewinding time, Life is Strange will have players predominantly looking towards the future. Whether snooping around a classmate’s room to gather every drop of personal information that may or may not be useful, or rewinding conversations to reply to characters in a way that tells them what they want to hear, planning ahead is a key aspect to the game. More often than not this will lead players to choosing the lesser of two evils in dialogue options as both outcomes are undesirable, yet a decision must be made.
Whereas in Chrysalis, it was clear that a players actions would lead to consequences, what was uncertain was to what effect these choices would impact the plot in future episodes. When a forgettable piece of information can lead to saving a character from an un-rewindable tragedy, it is clear that developer Dontnod reward exploration and nosiness.
Even when subdued to a dreary puzzle/fetch quest in an old scrap yard, Max gains an insight into Chloe’s time during their separation and her relationship with Rachel – the missing student. We even see a previously unseen jealous streak in Max as she learns more about Chloe’s replacement BFF.
Out of Time is also the first opportunity players get to venture out of Blackwell and into Arcadia Bay, enabling conversations with some of the locals. However this simply muddies your impressions of characters as everyone seems to have a grudge with someone or other. Enemies turn out to be misunderstood and friends are implicated in shady rumours, complicating matters further.
All the insights and information gathered by Max foreshadow the heaviest moment of the series so far and the repercussions of player decisions in the episodes final scene. Max is forced to implicate one of three characters in light of the events surrounding Kate Marsh. Either Max’s photography teacher and Blackwell stud, Mark Jefferson for causing Kate to cry and skip class, the campus rich kid, Nathan Prescott for alleged drugging charges, or Chloe’s “Step-douche” and head of campus security, David Madsen for harassing Kate on campus. With potentially huge ramifications, this decision has the potential to divert the plot of the series in three very different directions and should be chosen wisely.
Focusing less on the Rachel Amber disappearance, Episode 2: Out of Time explores the interrelationships between Max and the residents of Arcadia Bay, acting as a warning that every player choice can greatly impact the flow of the narrative. Everything and everyone is connected, and like the graffiti of Blackwell Academy warns, trust no one.
Episode 2 of Life is Strange is available for Xbox 360, Xbox 1, PS3, PS4 and on Steam at £3.99 or available as a bundle option of £15.99 for episodes 1-5.