Out for nearly every platform out there, including Stadia and the Switch, Life Is Strange: True Colors returns to the formula pioneered by Dontnod with a brand new setting and story, leaving the episodic nature of previous entries behind. We played the PlayStation 5 version.
Like the Sierra games of the 80s, the LucasArts games of the 90s and the TellTale adventures of the 00s, Life Is Strange has become a bit of a benchmark for narrative-driven adventure games. The choice-driven nature of the games has been a hit ever since it was first introduced, so after some changes in developer we were curious to see if it could still conjure up the same kind of magic.
True Colors introduces us to a new main character in Alex Chen, who’s had her share of loss in life with a history of foster care families. How she deals with this, however, is mostly up to you as a player, letting you pick how to react to people and portray your emotions – albeit within an existing framework of an emphatic young adult who cares about others and is easy to relate to.
Your history means you haven’t always been with your brother, but you meet him again early on in the game for what turns out to be a rather dramatic turn of events. Afterwards, much of Alex’ story is about piecing together what happened, and people seem reluctant to share with you. As such, traversing the town and discovering which secrets it hides is a major part of the experience in True Colors, and you don’t just have to stick to the core storyline either – there are plenty of side stories to dive into as well, and they will also help shape Alex, her relationships and the course of the main story.
In true Life is Strange fashion, you also have access to a supernatural power, and in this case Alex has the ability to sense other people’s emotions. From a ‘superhero’ perspective it’s not as impressive to see, but it does fit rather seamlessly with the nature of the game’s choice-driven dialogues. Some of these choices carry a lot of weight as well, and will become recurring themes in your interactions with others.
Exploring the environment also ties into your choices in conversation, sometimes giving you access to questions and answers you wouldn’t otherwise get. It’s a familiar mechanic that’s been in adventure games for about 30 years now, but feels more seamless here than it does in a game which just has a growing list of [ask about] topics.
Life is Strange: True Colors is divided into six story chapters, which all include mini-games and puzzles to break up the dialogue and exploration that is at the heart of the game and is what will stay with you the most because of some excellent emotional storytelling and ditto delivery from the voice acting crew. There’s been a noticeable bump in the quality of the facial animations as well, portraying more emotional range than before as Alex’ outlook changes over the course of the game.
One minor annoyance that does return in the latest Life is Strange is that your dialogue choices aren’t literal. You get a hint at what Alex will say, but because of how subjectively you interpret that you might end up with a response that wasn’t what you were going for. This generally isn’t a problem, but it can be a bummer if what ends up happening is an impactful interaction that sticks with the player for quite a while – although this only happened once during the entire playthrough.
Life is Strange: True Colors doesn’t stray far from an existing and proven formula, but does so with a completely new story and new characters, which makes the story feel fresh. The audiovisual delivery is excellent as well, and longtime fans will definitely enjoy seeing how it enhances the ever-excellent writing and narrative delivery that’s become such a big part of the Life is Strange franchise.