‘Life is Strange 2: Episode 1’ video game review
By Lauren Kelly, Graphics Manager
Life is Strange 2 had a lot to live up to. While fans of the original were excited for the sequel, the idea of leaving Max, Chloe, and the rest of the characters behind was difficult to take. Additionally, while the first series featured female main characters and a potential lesbian romance, the second has a male main character, further worrying fans. However, Life is Strange 2 blew my expectations out of the water. I’m going to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible for those of you who have yet to play it.
You play as Sean Diaz, a 16-year-old whose main concerns are going to a Halloween party with his best friend Lyla Park and hopefully hooking up with the girl he has a crush on. His relationship with his 9-year-old brother Daniel is strained since Sean is too busy hanging out with his friends to deal with him. Overall, Sean’s just a regular kid dealing with regular problems. However, as the game goes on, drama unfolds around him and Daniel and they begin to develop their bond.
Colouring much of the game’s story is the politics of today and two years ago. The game starts right before Halloween 2016—not coincidentally, about 10 days before Trump’s election on November 8. Playing as a Mexican teen allows the player to experience the racism of the time through the mind of a young “thug.” Racism is found all around them, and Sean’s dad would joke that in the Pacific Northwest “There are more bigfoots than Mexicans.” The game handles the race relations between the Diazes and those around them deftly, and without pulling any punches.
Each and every character in the game is fleshed out and believable, some for the better and some for the worse. Sean feels like any teen—he loves skateboarding, sketching, and hanging out with his best friend. Daniel is an excitable kid who breaks out of the mould of the “annoying” child in video games, instead being very loveable. The game brings more diversity with Lyla, who is Korean. I’m happy to see platonic male-female friendships in any media, so theirs is a very enjoyable relationship. There are some shitty people in the game too, with motivations that sadly tie in with the general attitude among many people in the US today.
Like the first, the game is visually stunning, and the soundtrack and licensed songs add to the atmosphere. A collectibles system allows you to customize Sean’s backpack with patches and keychains. His love of sketching takes the place of Max’s photography and Chloe’s graffiti, allowing players to sit down and sketch his surroundings. His sketchbook also serves as a journal of sorts, although more visceral and graphically-heavy than those in the previous games.
I would recommend this game to anyone, whether you played the first game or not. While it takes place in the same region, the developers have promised that this is a separate story from Max and Chloe’s. If you’re concerned about the choice to switch to male characters, I would counter that, while the first was celebrated for allowing players to embody and empathize with teen LGBTQ+ girls, this game is just as valuable for focusing on the struggle Mexican-Americans are currently facing, which is also largely missing from mainstream media. Like the first, this game is episodic, so if you pick it up now you will be waiting about two months between new episodes. However, I think it’s worth it to play live and be a part of the community as the story progresses.
The game costs $50, a large step up from the original’s $20 price tag, but I would argue that the original is easily worth $50 as well. You can also buy the first episode for $10 and then choose to pick up the rest for $41 if you decide you like it. This episode took me about four hours, and if it keeps pace with that you’ll get about 20 hours of entertainment for the price of less than four movie tickets. Fans of the original game and fans of visual media in general will all find something to love in this relatable story.