DONTNOD Entertainment returns to Life is Strange with a bang. Literally. The first episode of Life is Strage 2 opens with a scene that is the terrifying reality for a number of Americans. Two teens get into a physical fight in their front yards in suburban Washington State. One teen goes after the other’s younger brother and is shoved back for it, he lands on a rock and has difficulty breathing. A cop pulls up. Rather than get medical attention for the boy struggling to breathe, the officer pulls his gun on the remaining teen and his younger brother. Things only escalate when they boys’ father tries to defend his sons. The officer shoots the father. Because when a hispanic teen and a white one fight in America, it is always the teen of color who gets treated with suspicion. Often with dire results.
However, because this is Life is Strange, the young boy has supernatural powers. He manages to throw the cop back with a massive telekinetic push, while he and his brother make a run for it.
That’s all in the first few minutes of gameplay.
From there, we get a bit of a road trip buddy comedy as the brothers attempt to survive in the wilds of Washington state just outside of Seattle. The scenery is beautiful and the storytelling is both touching and a little unnerving, considering that both boys are now considered fugitives.
Their plan is to flee the country and go to their father’s hometown in Mexico.
Without getting too spoilery, things don’t go as the boys planned. Mostly, because the younger brother, Daniel doesn’t remember what happened.
The gameplay is pretty similar to that of the original Life is Strange, however players control Sean who has no supernatural powers himself. Instead, Sean is the escort for his brother, and often needs to help him around obstacles. The game mostly focuses on the bond between the brothers and it is honestly touching to witness. Even when Sean reveals the secret he’s kept from Daniel at the end of the episode, you can feel how much those two boys love and rely on one another.
I was so personally invested in what happened to the Diaz brothers that I felt like I wasn’t playing a game. It wasn’t fun, it was heart-wrenching and sad and I was terrified for those two as if they were people I knew personally. That kind of player investment is a hallmark of the Life is Strange series, and DONTNOD have done a fantastic job with their return.
While we’re only a single episode into Life is Strange 2, the game is quite possibly the best use of video games as a storytelling medium I’ve seen so far this year. The story of the Diaz brothers is deep, personal, and incredibly well-handled. The game grapples with some incredibly complex social issues and does so without being too heavy-handed, despite the weight of the story and its implications. That kind of deft hand is something you don’t see often in game story telling and is something I absolutely adore.
If you haven’t picked up the first episode of Life is Strange 2 yet, do it now. I promise you won’t regret it.
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