Episode 2 of Dontnod Entertainment’s latest story-based game opens on a picturesque snowy scene in early December where the two protagonists, Sean and Daniel Diaz, are exploring Daniel’s new found power – telekinesis. After going on the run from the police after a tragic accident where their father was killed, the two boys are hiding out in an abandoned cabin on their way to their father’s hometown in Mexico.
We were introduced to Daniel’s power at the end of the previous episode, but are yet to explore fully what he can do with it. Unfortunately, as you play as his older brother Sean, you don’t get to experience the power directly, but can ask Daniel to use it in order to train him to move larger and larger objects. You also get to choose how to mentor him. As with all Life is Strange games you get to make several decisions, which influence how the story plays out. Some decisions have more influence than others and are able to steer the narrative in slightly different directions. As Daniel becomes more aware of what his powers can do, a running motif in this episode is deciding how you, as Sean, mentor him – do you tell Daniel to hide his power at all costs or are you more relaxed? These decisions ultimately have long-lasting consequences for the two Diaz boys.
Before you start this episode you are asked if you would like to play the free short demo game which compliments it – The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit. You play as a young boy – Chris, who fancies himself as a superhero with the special power of, you guessed it, telekinesis. Chris makes an appearance in Life is Strange 2 as the next door neighbour of Sean and Daniel’s maternal grandparents, The Reynolds, with whom they decide to stay for a few days respite from travelling.
The decisions you make in this short game influence the story in the main game. For example, in The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit I decided to ask Mrs Reynolds to come over and speak to Chris and his father. The result of this was mentioned several times in Life is Strange 2. I found witnessing the cross-over an oddly satisfying experience. Playing out one day as both Chris and Sean allows you to see a mysterious event from two different viewpoints and gives an oddly satisfying voyeuristic experience.
One gripe I had with the opening episode of Life is Strange 2 was with the slow gameplay, which I was hoping would pick up in episode 2. I’m afraid to report that this isn’t the case – in fact it seems to have slowed down even more. You can also add into this the extraordinarily long loading screens, which halt progress more than I would have liked. The only thing that keeps the story moving along is the temptation of a new mystery to solve. In the first episode we had the exploration of Daniel’s power, in this we find out more about the boys’ mother who abandoned them when Daniel was a baby. Will the boys try and contact her, and will they find out why she ran off? The clues lead to a possibility that it could be something to do with Daniel’s power…
The game moves along by setting you small, defined challenges. However, they are neither particularly interesting nor challenging. I don’t play a game to buy a Christmas present or do household chores. There are plenty of objects to view but this is just it – you view them and Sean will inevitably make an uninteresting observation. There are very few items that you can actually interact with, although the developers have tried to develop this by giving an occasional option of discussing an object with another character, but this does very little to add interest.
You also experience Sean’s drawing ability. At a few places in this episode you can opt to draw the scene by observing the surroundings and then wiggling the left thumbstick to see the picture emerge on the page. This is a nice change in gameplay and adds a few more interactions with characters.
The music, visuals and voice-acting is again superb, and this time round we meet a few new characters. Mr and Mrs Reynolds are obviously hiding something about their daughter, and the way this is subtly hinted at throughout is very well played. You are constantly torn between Sean and Daniel having a ‘normal’ shot at being children being looked after by their grandparents, and wondering if this really as idyllic as it seems. This really is a movie in game form – just a rather slow-paced one.
You can’t deny the intelligence of Life is Strange 2 – or any part of the entire Life is Strange franchise for that matter – but I feel that sometimes this at the expense of entertainment. It would be great to play at least a small portion of the game as Daniel, so you get to experience using his power – this would add a welcome new dimension to the gameplay.
At the end of the episode if you are craving for more Life is Strange before episode 3 comes out you have the option to replay, which changes your outcomes, or play in ‘collectible mode’, which allows you to hunt down the six hidden collectible items to add to Sean’s backpack, but without changing your outcomes.
Life is Strange Episode 2 concludes with giving us a taste of episode 3 – the boys are on the road again and see themselves in a place rather warmer. Do they finally make it to Mexico or have they taken a different path yet again? I personally would like to experience more of the backstory around the time their mother left, while my fingers are crossed the pace picks up this time round – this story really needs to get going at some point.