Life is Strange: True Colors review — Right in the feels

Life is Strange: The True Colors Review

Have you ever been so crazy that you could barely speak? How about being so nervous that you can’t seem to stop talking? These are the kind of legitimate, raw emotional reactions that are rarely explored throughout the medium. Fortunately for all of us, the Life is strange the franchise exists, and with it easily comes the most emotional experience of 2021. The final installment of the experimental series, Life is Strange: True Colors, coming to Steam today, and at the risk of spoiling the review, is fantastic.

I have to shyly admit that this is my first foray into the Square Enix adventure series. I went as spoiler-free as possible and suggest you do the same. Considering the brand’s traditionally strong emotional current, this will strike with more emphasis if you know as little as possible before you start. For this reason, I will try to avoid narrative spoilers as much as possible. So there you have it, nothing!

Get out of

When Alex first set foot within the city limits of Haven, Colorado, it was obvious the location would lead to a very different path in his life. It’s such a huge transition, because it involves both reuniting with your long-estranged brother and making a living outside the confines of the U.S. foster care system. To put it rather bluntly, Alex has seen some serious shit in his limited number of revolutions around the sun, and this is his first chance to get a fresh start. Where is it?

As was the case in previous episodes of the series, you are once again aware of the protagonist’s rather unique abilities. In this case, Alex is a first-rate empath. And no, we are not talking about a person who is just too sympathetic to the plight of others. She has the power to see everyone’s emotions. Do you know the saying “wear your emotions on your sleeve”? Well, that’s the most literal interpretation of the phrase possible.

Life is Strange: The True Colors Review

Whenever a character (NPC or otherwise) starts to feel some sort of overwhelming emotional response, the aura surrounding the individual will begin to show off in a variety of different colors. If Alex manages to get close enough to these extreme feelings, she can tap into and see exactly what they see on their mind. She sees the world with new eyes and better understands each character’s fears, dreams, aspirations, joys, and even insecurities. While barely as overwhelming as having super speed or extreme strength, it’s up to the player to use these unique skills to help answer many of the game’s fundamental mysteries.

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While the central storyline inevitably helps move the narrative forward, Life is Strange: True Colors is essentially a character study on all of the unique types of individuals you may encounter in a small town in America. The bonds Alex inevitably forges with the people of Haven are what lead to this fascinating adventure and elevate the experience even further. It’s almost as if there is an unspoken thesis that you’ll never fully understand how the little impressions you can make on someone’s life can forever impact their future.

Once you’ve successfully bonded with the locals, it’s even more impactful when you get a glimpse into their inner psyche and who they really are. Sometimes what you see on the outside doesn’t exactly match what’s going on inside their melon. Topics such as mental illness, the heartbreaking toll that a disease like Alzheimer’s disease can have on someone’s mind, or even the many ways people cope with tragedy, are dealt with with a level of maturity and grace rarely seen in a wide medium like gaming.

Life is Strange: The True Colors Review

I would like to take a moment to reflect on the reality of some of these emotional glimpses. As someone who has faced mental health issues throughout my personal life, I couldn’t help but be directly touched by the various glimpses behind the proverbial curtain. A perfect embodiment of this was when Alex was trying to comfort a child who has lost the most important male presence in his life.

I’m rightfully remembering the tightness in my chest, almost like an anvil is resting on my breastbone, as this poor child pours his broken heart onto the screen. Just as Alex was living it, I felt his desperation, his self-blame and his inner conflict. It didn’t just seem real; this was real. There is no better way to put it. If that’s not a glowing endorsement of each character’s performance, then I don’t know what it is.

To hell with the mysteries

But enough about sensitive shit, and let’s get back to the heart of the experience: problem solving. Notice I didn’t say that Life is Strange: True Colors“The objective was to solve the mystery? This is mainly because it puts more light on each character and their personal struggles, as opposed to just one massive bottom line, which is tackled all the time. These smaller-scale, interconnected stories fit together to reveal a bigger mystery, but it almost feels more like a side effect than just priority.

Life is Strange: The True Colors Review

Essentially, each problem-solving scenario relates directly to the emotional state of the character involved. Alex takes it upon himself to try to solve everyone’s problems, before moving on with his life. By examining the inner workings of each individual, she can see and hear memories, understand motivations, glance at thought patterns, and even come to terms with their emotions. Selfishly speaking, I couldn’t help but wonder why Alex was so concerned with fixing everyone’s dysfunction when she already had enough in her own life. I mean, trying to be a nice person can only go up to a point, right?

The biggest overall mystery, revolving around a corporate conspiracy of the highest level, is the locomotion that helps close every chapter of the tale. Still, with all the side distractions, it feels like there are times when Alex loses all sense of direction and purpose. She just takes her fucking time and lets the revelations come to her, as opposed to the more offensive traditional detective story. It made me want to take her aside and go home a little urgently, because good God makes that the rhythm drags in places.

New points of view

My eyes were opened by Life is Strange: True Colors. I’ve never played a game that elicited so deeply a physical manifestation of raw emotion, throughout the gameplay. The Deck Nine team led by example in how all studios should approach mental health, showing both maturity and emotional depth in the process. Aside from some points where story progression lags slightly, you will constantly find more to enjoy as the story progresses. If you’ve always wanted the opportunity to walk a mile instead of someone else, there has never been a better opportunity.

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