Posted in General

Self-medicating with Life is Strange: True Colors

So last week was a highly unusual one in my household, in that my wife took all four of our kids to visit my folks while I had to stay behind and work. I cannot stress how strange this is, because I’m never alone in that house. I’ve never had it to myself for more than an hour or two since we moved here four years ago. And suddenly I had all of this quiet and space for an entire week.

I treated it — the part that I wasn’t working — as a staycation of sorts. Just a time to really soak in the solitude, recharge my batteries, and spoil myself a bit. And because I knew that it would get in my head a little that I was all alone, I splurged on an adventure game to fill some of those hours. I ended up landing on last year’s Life is Strange: True Colors, which is the latest in the series that kicked off with the terrific original title. I’d heard good things about this entry and figured, why not.

It was a good purchase, all things considered. It starts with your standard Girl With a Troubled Past — Alex — who arrives in an idyllic mountain town to reunite with her brother after eight years apart. Her arrival goes hand-in-hand with the player’s arrival into this game, and both get to know the setting, the cast of colorful characters, and (gradually) the lurking tensions, mysteries, relationships, and stories of the place.

Like Max’s ability to rewind time in the first game, Alex has a special power. In her case, she can see emotional auras in people and objects and peer into them to learn some vital details or secret thoughts. It’s not quite as compelling a special mechanic, but it kind of works to take this girl on a journey out of her shell to understanding other people and connecting with them.

Looking back at other games like this, I was struck by how many of them feature a somewhat shy female protagonist. Aside from Ethan Carter and Firewatch, I can’t think of another recent “walking simulator” that doesn’t have a girl at the centerpiece. Maybe the more emotional tones of these games is well-suited for a female lead.

Another thing that stood out to me is how the setting of Haven, Colorado is obviously the developers’ fantasy brought to life in a video game. This setting was so dang pretty, cozy, and perfect that it — at times — felt like a carefully tailored theme park rather than a living, breathing town. Not that it made it any less interesting to explore.

I really took my time and explored every bit of this setting and story, knowing that when it was over, that was it. Overall, it was a very satisfying experience, albeit a short one, and I’m glad I had it to keep me company.

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