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: Before the Storm is a downloadable episodic graphic adventure that takes place in a fictional town in Oregon called Arcadia Bay. There's tons of adult content even though ostensibly it's aimed at a young adult audience. It features direct talk and conversations about alcohol and substance abuse, adultery, arson, and other troubles generally associated with the difficulty of teenage years and forging one's identity. There's light violence and some supernatural elements hinting at wider destruction coming to the whole town, as well as thoughts on the need for revenge. There are still two more episodes to be released in this game, which will presumably and reportedly get darker still.
What's it about?
In LIFE IS STRANGE: BEFORE THE STORM, you play as Chloe Price, a 16-year-old rebel armed with a brutal wit and a boundless ability to get into trouble. Since her father died two years ago, Chloe has burned every bridge at home and school, and now feels as though she stands alone against the world. Enter Rachel Amber, who's beautiful, popular, and destined for success -- the opposite of Chloe in nearly every way. This game focuses on the relationship between Chloe and Rachel. As you play the game, you'll find that choices have consequences, and the decisions you make as Chloe impact both your burgeoning friendship (or romance) with Rachel and the town you live in.
Is it any good?
While its 2015 predecessor dabbled in teenage unrest, finding one's identity, and time travel to explore consequences, the sequel is focused on why and how some decisions can't be fixed or saved. Newcomers will simply not appreciate or notice as much of what's going on in the story -- such as questions that were left unanswered, or the significance of some settings -- but series devotees may either be impressed or turned off by Life Is Strange: Before the Storm's bold and arguably laudatory move to eliminate unnecessary puzzles. While the previous game was stopped in its tracks by an obligation to make the game feel more "gamelike," this one is much more intent on having you focus on characters, story, and developing relationships with everyone you come across. As such, the running time on the first installment is noticeably short, because the experience has been made more streamlined with more opportunities to breathe. This is both a good and bad thing. Rather than rehash a bunch of stuff, Before the Storm is poised to tell its own story even if series fans know the fate of all involved in the early game that follows later in plot. But even still, the first episode feels a tad rushed: the few things you know are supposed to happen feel tossed off and rushed compared to everything else.
Regardless of where you are, though, the overall flow of the game stays the same: fully probe one set-piece, learn what you can, and talk to people. There's no big boss to fight -- just decisions to make and making the call about how honest you want to be. It's a very different sort of game. Out of the gate, Before the Storm had a lot of knocks against it -- easily the biggest was the fact that the voice actors' strike prevented performers from coming back to reprise their roles. Surprisingly, and something that's no small feat, this prequel's acting isn't as glaring as it might have seemed. On top of that, this being developed by another studio has so far proved that creative license has only been taken with full respect and with bold direction. It will certainly be interesting and refreshing to see where it's heading.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in video games. Why does violence affect people more when it happens unexpectedly? Is the violence in this game more of an issue because it affects teen characters?
Talk about where you should turn to when you feel you can't turn to anyone. If you have a problem with or are unsure whether you're safe with your parents, where should you go? If you have a friend in such a situation, what should you do for him or her?
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
- Price: $16.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Square Enix LTD
- Release date: August 31, 2017
- Genre: Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, High School
- ESRB rating: M for Sexual Themes, Violence, Strong Language, Use of Drugs and Alcohol
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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.