A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Life Is Strange -- Episode 1: American Chrysalis is a downloadable mystery adventure that takes place in a fictional world at a private academy for teenagers. There's frank discussion of sex, relationships, and partying among characters; cursing is frequently used and attempts to mimic high school students' use of vulgarity. Smoking, drugs, and alcohol are often discussed, and (in some cases) they're used (the main character's friend smokes). There's also blood and violence shown, with a general sense of dread and foreboding due to missing students (their story presumably will be told over the course of the episodic gameplay).
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's it about?
Max Caulfield is not a typical 18-year-old teenage girl. Not only does she seem skilled with a camera, but she discovers that she has the ability to reverse time, albeit not too far. But it's this ability that's at the core of LIFE IS STRANGE -- EPISODE 1: AMERICAN CHRYSALIS. Max has returned to her hometown on the Oregon coast after being gone for five years, is accepted into a prestigious private academy, and is soon embroiled in a dark mystery involving the disappearance of other students. Everyone could be a suspect, from the famous teacher of photography to the Vortex club, to other priggish, snobbish students who think they have free reign to do what they please without consequence. As you play the game, you'll find that choices have consequences, and the decisions Max makes will alter the story as it unfolds.
Is it any good?
Life Is Strange has a sinister undertone that grabs players and forces them through the plot with the one caveat: that things aren't always what they seem to be. On the downside, the setting is a little forced for the sake of the story, with gameplay relying on highlighting objects and then selecting actions from pop-up wheels. Some action elements can be obscured by characters if the camera isn't in the right position to reveal what players can and can't do. The game also has some puzzles that are sequential (not bad unless you get hung up trying to figure out something that seems so minor overall), meaning you have to accomplish certain things to solve the puzzle and advance the story.
On the positive side, the artwork is very nice with a great use of color and texture. Although the profanity can seem a bit much, a 17-year-old who helped review the game said the character interaction reminded her of the school she attends, from the student attitudes to some of the language. The game is easy to control, the characters are distinctive, and the puzzles aren't mind-bending, but they can require a bit of intuition and intelligence. Even though the game advertises that actions have consequences, Max can alter her actions with her time-reversal powers and make other choices, which leads to some replayability. So far, this is shaping up to be a first-rate adventure title.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the impact of violence in games. Why does violence affect people more when it happens unexpectedly? Is it any worse when violence happens to kids?
Have you ever been faced with a dilemma where there was no easy answer and, regardless of your decision, someone would be hurt or feel bad? How did you handle it? Do you think you did the best you could, given your choices?
- Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One
- Price: $4.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Square Enix
- Release date: January 30, 2015
- Genre: Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, High School, Misfits and Underdogs
- ESRB rating: M for Violence, Blood, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Drug Use.
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.