With Life Is Strange Video Game, You Can Rewind Time

Credit: Dontnod

(Image credit: Dontnod)

Part of growing up is standing by the choices you make. But what if you didn't have to?

That's the premise of Life Is Strange, an upcoming episodic game from Paris-based developer Dontnod Entertainment, makers of the 2013 game Remember Me.

The first episode of Life Is Strange will be released in early 2015 for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and Windows PC. Each of the five episodes will arrive about six weeks apart.

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Life Is Strange follows Max Caulfield, a teenage girl who has just moved back to her childhood home, a small seaside town in Oregon. A girl named Rachel has recently gone missing, and Max's old (and much-changed) friend Chloe wants Max to help find her.

Players' decisions about how to interact with Chloe and other characters and objects will shape the way the story progresses. But Max isn't bound to those choices: She has the ability to rewind time, and can use this power to redo conversations and events until they play out in the way she prefers.

Players can only rewind time between various checkpoints throughout the game, so you can't undo everything at any point in the game. Various puzzles will also require players to rewind time in order to get various items or information.

The dialogue felt a bit cliched — the characters sound like what French adults might think American teenagers sound like, which of course is exactly what's happening. But while individual lines might fail to resonate, Life Is Strange is excellent at creating a nostalgic yet youthful atmosphere.

Music plays a key role in both the narrative of the scene I saw demonstrated and in the game's overall aesthetic; Dontnod creative director Jean-Maxime Moris explained that, in keeping with the game's Pacific Northwest setting, Life Is Strange features a range of indie folk music, some licensed and some original to the game.

Instead of trying for as much realism as possible, Life Is Strange features hand-painted graphics and textures. Many of the scenes reminded me of animated still-life paintings.

The game struck me as a mix of the episodic choice-based gameplay of The Walking Dead and the atmosphere of Gone Home, with a healthy dash of the time-based puzzles of Braid.

Moris also took a moment to discuss the fact that Life Is Strange features a female protagonist. When Dontnod was making its first game, Remember Me, several publishers reportedly passed on the game because it featured a female character, as Moris told news site PA Report in 2013.

With Life Is Strange, Moris said that, again, one publisher told the studio that it would only publish the game if it was rewritten to feature a male protagonist. But Square Enix, says Moris, made no such caveats.

"There's a lot of debate in the games press these days on gender equality and females in games," Moris said. "We're not trying to ‘fix' the industry, we're not trying to be different just for the sake of being different.

"I think that issue is way bigger than just games. We're just game creators...and we've been lucky enough not to have to make any compromises," he said. "Square Enix were great in that sense."

Jill Scharr is a staff writer for Tom's Guide, where she regularly covers security, 3D printing and video games. You can follow Jill on Twitter @JillScharr and on Google+. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.

Jill Scharr is a creative writer and narrative designer in the videogame industry. She's currently Project Lead Writer at the games studio Harebrained Schemes, and has also worked at Bungie. Prior to that she worked as a Staff Writer for Tom's Guide, covering video games, online security, 3D printing and tech innovation among many subjects.