Life is Strange: True Colors Review: An Emotional Triumph
RRP $ 59.99
“Warm and moving, the only thing Life is Strange: True Colors stumbles over is its own words.”
A similar story
If you’re looking for a mental health story, it’s that easy to find one by logging into Twitter and scrolling a little. Media, regardless of its format, now have a way of presenting the wide range of mental health problems. The theme of widespread depression or anxiety has taken hold and is now represented by the characters in the games and shows we watch. At some point, many of us noticed that something was wrong internally, something was not good.
Life is Strange: True Colors is about that notion – that we are all broken or wrong in our own unique way. However, the story it tells is not just about coping with everyday life. It’s not a healthy lifestyle anyway. It is about accepting these imperfections, addressing them directly and, in some cases, fighting for life to be the way it should be.
This message comes alive through the game’s wonderful characters, each with their own experiences and trauma. It’s nearly impossible to complete Life is Strange: True Colors without referring to Alex or one of her friends. Even with a staggered story pace and sometimes repulsive dialogue, the game managed to connect with me in a way that not many have done before.
In someone else’s shoes
Life is Strange: True Colors puts players in the shoes of Alex Chen, a woman who has apparently been through everything. She spent a large part of her life with the foster family, whom I don’t know firsthand, but who have known them all too well through the experiences of a close friend. With a look at their phone, players can see that even the few social relationships they established during their time in the system weren’t working. One ends with Alex haunting a boy who expects her to have sex after a few meetings, another ends because Alex seems to have “freaked out”.
This freaking out was caused by Alex’s latent power, which isn’t as spectacular as flying or shooting laser beams. Instead, she’s an odd mix of a telepath and an empath (a telempath, if you will). She can see how people feel, visualized by colorful auras that appear around their bodies. When someone feels something, they can tap into it and understand the reasons for their emotions. Overall, it’s a powerful tool that she can use, along with the players, to pinpoint the motivation of each character. When someone acts out of fear or anger, Alex can bring that deep-seated emotion to the surface.
However, if she really gets into someone’s feelings, Alex’s powers can take her elsewhere. Instead of simply seeing how someone is feeling – albeit on a deeper level than most others – she can see the world through her eyes, filtered by her emotions. Sometimes this experience is quirky and puts Alex into a Dungeons and Dragons-esque world that a kid imagines. Other experiences are not as pleasant, but still poignant. In one of these passages, Alex looks through the frightened eyes of a woman who is slowly losing her memory of a “state” through the lens of her fear of eventually failing to remember basic things, like the face of her own granddaughter. Those moments came close to me in the end as terrifyingly brilliant depictions of the fear, anger, and fear I have felt in my own life.
Sometimes this experience is quirky and puts Alex into a Dungeons and Dragons-esque world that a kid imagines. Other experiences are not as pleasant, but still poignant.
The negative emotions players experience in Life is Strange: True Colors are balanced equally by moments of tenderness and real joy. The game begins with Alex arriving in the town of Haven Springs, Colorado to move in with her brother Gabe. The first day they are together is one healthy moment after the other, whereby the calm, restrained shell that Alex has built up over the years slowly flakes off as she sees her brother and the close family he has in the little one City has built, is presented.
That perfect day ends with Gabe’s death, an event that sets the rest of the game’s plot in motion. Alex and her two best friends Steph (returning from Life is Strange: Before The Storm) and Ryan begin investigating a mining company that was in town and set off an explosion that caused Gabe’s death. This story of corporate espionage and intrigue, however, largely takes a backseat in four of the game’s five chapters. There are moments when you focus directly on that plot, but for most of the game the spotlight is on Alex and her slow but safe habituation to a place that is safe to call home.
This ultimately creates a strange imbalance in a story that I generally enjoyed and that I eventually connected with. Alex’s fight against the Typhon mining company always seems to be the focus. Instead, however, it provides ominous backdrop to Alex’s own story of personal improvement and how she comes to terms with her new role in Haven Springs as a person who sees himself broken but feels the need to fix others.
For most of the game, players walk around the small, quaint town, interacting with the locals, and helping them with their own problems. Through these little interactions, Alex builds her own found family, slowly replacing the one who either died or left them.
While most of these moments are touching, they’re also where writing Life is Strange: True Colors is at its worst. Sometimes everything the game’s characters say is powerful and relatable, but sometimes the words sound hollow (and sometimes are downright inappropriate). Alex, a 21-year-old, doesn’t have to spit out internet-age memes when looking at random objects in the area. That makes them less of a relatable example for people my age (which may be a bit of a stretch given that I’m at the ripe old age of 25) and more like a cartoon.
Life is Strange: The story of True Colors, while slow for most, is entertaining. It’s not a chore, but rather a pleasant walk, something to enjoy at a leisurely pace. However, that feeling changes completely in the final act of the game when things take an extremely sharp turn. The story revolves entirely around Alex’s habituation to her new environment directly to her conflict with Typhon. It’s a dramatic twist that really grabs you. While I could stop playing anytime in the early chapters of the game, I had to stop after the fifth hit.
While most of these moments are touching, they’re also where writing Life is Strange: True Colors is at its worst.
In this final chapter, players are also given one of the game’s six endings. At this point, I’ve only worked my way through the game once but will probably try again to experience all the things I’ve missed that the game generously displays at the end of each chapter. I don’t think it’s possible to have a really “bad” ending, but there are some who would be worse than others, at least for me. I tried to get Alex to find one of the game’s two love interests, and I succeeded. There are a few other important decisions players can make about Alex’s future, but I won’t go into those spoilers.
There’s no easy way to recommend Life is Strange: True Colors. Like the rest of the Life is Strange franchise, it’s not a typical game. It’s more like a visual novel or a point-and-click adventure. The game is a slow, fun experience, perfect if you want to end the night or get up in the morning.
Beyond that, however, it is an emotional triumph. Experiencing Alex’s adventures and seeing the world through her excellently designed perspective is a joy that hit me harder than I expected. I’ve often written off the Life is Strange franchise as inaccurate and never given it the chance it deserved. But Alex’s story and the trials of those around me sounded true to me. Your fears, fears and other emotions are all personal and come from a place that I consider to be common. Fear of old age, anger at corporations and their endless greed, as well as sadness and anger after the loss of a loved one, are not only reserved for the characters of this game – they are universal feelings. Life is Strange: True Colors, despite its unbalanced story and sometimes pathetic dialogues, uses its emotional weight masterfully.
Is there a better alternative?
Telltale’s The Walking Dead continues to lead the genre. It’s a perfect emotional story for those looking for a more mature game.
How long it will take?
My play through of Life is Strange: True Colors took about 10 hours, but that was just one play-through. Players can go through the game multiple times to find their ideal ending.
Should you buy it?
Yes sir. Life is Strange: True Colors is assignable at almost any level and offers a solid experience for those who like slower, more relaxed games.