A sport that balances horror, heartbreak, and thriller

At this level, the Life is Strange formulation is nicely established. Each sport follows a younger grownup going by means of some sort of private trauma, whereas additionally studying to cope with a newfound superpower, whether or not it’s time journey or telekinesis. So far it has labored in just a few completely different flavors: the original felt a bit like an interactive Veronica Mars, whereas its sequel built on that with a bold and overtly political story. True Colors is the most recent entry within the rising anthology, and it as soon as once more incorporates a troubled child with particular talents who’s struggling to maintain it collectively. It additionally makes a giant change by ditching the episodic format and releasing the whole story unexpectedly

Aside from that, it doesn’t mess with the formulation a lot, nor does it make the daring narrative leaps of LiS2. Instead, it seems like a refinement. It takes the perfect components of Life is Strange — choice-driven gameplay, characters you’ll fall in love with, a vibe that’s like an interactive indie rock album — and applies them to a brand new darkish thriller that’s onerous to place down. And that’s an entire lot simpler now that you could binge the entire thing.

True Colors facilities on Alex Chen, a 21-year-old who has spent almost a decade bouncing across the foster care system. At the outset of the sport that’s about to alter: she’s on the point of transfer in along with her estranged brother in an idyllic small city in Colorado. It’s an eccentric and charming place with a kick-ass report retailer, a pub run by a person filled with fatherly knowledge, a dispensary with an artwork studio within the again, and beautiful mountain views irrespective of which route you look. After so lengthy and not using a actual residence, it’s possibly the proper place for Alex to quiet down for a bit. She simply falls again right into a familial routine along with her brother — one of many first issues they do is rock out in an embarrassing air guitar session — and shortly befriends seemingly everybody on the town.

Of course, that is Life is Strange, so issues don’t keep so peaceable for lengthy. I gained’t spoil the specifics, however there’s a big loss of life pretty early on (I can say from expertise that even when it’s coming, it nonetheless hits actually onerous) that leads Alex down a rabbit gap of determining the way it really occurred. At its core, True Colors is a basic small city homicide thriller, the sort the place everybody looks like they might be a suspect when you dig in a bit. Eventually, you’ll study that there’s a sinister historical past to the place, together with a strong company with a powerful maintain in town.

What makes it really feel distinctly like Life is Strange comes all the way down to a mix of gameplay and tone. If you’ve by no means performed any of those video games earlier than, they’re primarily interactive dramas, the place you spend as a lot time watching occasions unfold as taking part. Your interactions principally are available in two varieties: making choices and investigating. Often the sport will current you with a binary alternative that influences how the story performs out, or how different characters reply to Alex. That might imply intervening in a home squabble or selecting with whom to flirt. (True Colors presents two very interesting romantic choices that may be onerous to decide on between.)

The twist right here is Alex’s energy, which permits her to see somebody’s “aura.” Essentially, she will be able to inform how somebody is feeling by taking a look at them — they’ll glow completely different colours relying on temper — after which use that to delve additional into their psyche. This can play out in just a few alternative ways. Sometimes, she’s in a position to change somebody’s emotional state by studying about them and saying or doing the correct factor; different occasions she will be able to use that data to assist individuals in additional sensible methods. In one scene, Alex helps an amnesiac keep in mind what they have been doing. In one other, she is ready to discuss a scared younger boy into following her to security. Her energy feels completely in tune with the sport. Life is Strange has at all times been a sequence about listening to and serving to individuals; right here it simply turns into an overt gameplay mechanic.

True Colors additionally does an unbelievable job in relation to pacing and tone. There are occasions when the motion is so quick, and you need to make a tough resolution in a cut up second, that my coronary heart was really racing. In different moments you possibly can simply lounge round on a dock enthusiastic about life. The sport allows you to linger when wanted, each with moments and characters, so you possibly can totally perceive them. Things additionally get extremely darkish, significantly within the later chapters, when Alex is pressured to confront the innermost conflicts of each her associates and herself.

It balances this out with plenty of chill, even playful moments; one chapter takes place nearly fully inside a goofy LARP, and one of the necessary choices you’ll make within the sport includes serving to Alex work out simply what she needs to do along with her life. The sport jumps between horror and heartbreak, dad jokes and drama, with an ease that’s uncommon to see in video games. True Colors is the sort of sport the place you’ll be as anxious about whether or not your crush likes you as you’re about fixing the grisly crime on the heart of the story.

The greatest change in True Colors comes not from how the sport performs, however the way it’s being launched. Historically, the sequence has been episodic: every new entry is split into chapters, that are then launched periodically each month or so. It’s an important concept, however the realities of sport growth typically meant there have been enormous gaps between episodes, making it onerous for the story to take care of momentum. In True Colors, that is now not the case: all 5 chapters are being launched without delay, and the story advantages from this type of shut connection, the place you possibly can see the ramifications of your selections with out struggling to recollect what occurred final time.

The anthology format has helped hold Life is Strange recent throughout three primary entries, but it surely additionally comes with a big danger. This is a sequence the place a lot depends in your funding within the characters; these tales work since you wish to assist characters like Max Caulfield and Sean Diaz dwell a greater life. Luckily, regardless of a brand new setting and lead, True Colors has precisely that. I performed by means of the whole factor in two sittings — not as a result of I needed to see the way it ended, however as a result of I wanted to be sure that Alex was alright.

Life is Strange: True Colors launches September tenth on the PC, PS4, PS5, Stadia, Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

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