What I'm Playing - No. 181
Welcome back to another weekly wrap-up of the games I’ve been playing over the past week!
Click a title to skip to that section. Games contained within this post:
Life is Strange: True Colors (PS5)
Life is Strange: True Colors is a 2021 adventure game, and the third main entry in the series. I played it on PS5, but it’s also available on PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series, PC, and Switch. You play as Alex Chen, a young woman who who just reconnected with her older brother Gabe, who she hadn’t seen in eight years, and moved to Haven Springs, Colorado. Alex has the psychic ability to read other people’s emotions, which she sees as colorful auras when they’re feeling strongly enough. When they’re feeling really strongly, their emotions can even infect her, taking over until she calms down. Haven was supposed to be a fresh start for her, but before Alex even has a chance to settle in, Gabe is killed in an accident. The plot largely focuses on Alex’s investigation into the mysterious circumstances behind her brother’s death as she uses her power to discover the truth.
Gameplay consists mostly of exploring the town and talking to people, ocassionally making choices that will have some sort of minor consequence eventually. For the first time in the series, motion capture was used to capture the actors’ performances, and it makes a huge difference during dialogue. Characters’ faces look really natural during conversation, including the way their eyes move, and it makes the dialogue much more engaging. It’s also just a really pretty game in general, the visuals have seen a major overhaul since the previous entry.
As you investigate around Haven Springs, you’ll be able to use Alex’s power to tap into the emotions of certain characters. Many times this is required to advance the main plot and you’ll have to use her power on the main cast to help them work through their feelings, which sometimes pulls you into a surreal alternate reality reflecting that person’s tenuous mental state. But there were also many opportunities to use her power on random NPCs around town. Sometimes this is just for simple dialogue, but other times it unlocks an optional objective for you to solve their problem, like helping someone find their lost dog or something. The main optional collectibles in each chapter are tied to using Alex’s power too. You can find objects scattered around town and use Alex’s power on them to collect a special memory related to that item.
True Colors also has a few mini-games sprinkled throughout, which is a fun touch to help mix up the gameplay. You’ll play foosball as part of the main story in one chapter, and there’s also an arcade game in your apartment you can play in several chapters that’s like a mix of Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. One of my favorite segments in the game was the Live Action Role-Playing game you take part in during the third chapter. Here, the game briefly turns in a turn-based RPG, with the camera off to the side to give it the same perspective as battles in the early Final Fantasy games. There’s a little battle music track playing in the background whenever you enter battle with one of the “monsters,” who are all played by Ryan. I really liked this part, the battles have very simple RPG mechanics and it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, but the whole thing just has so much charm and it’s woven into the narrative really well. It makes for a nice setpiece in the middle of the game.
This game is pretty short, but it tells a really good story, so I didn’t mind. It’s definitely smaller in scope than the previous game. The explorable areas are limited to a handful of locations, and you revisit most of them several times throughout the story. These include your apartment, the bar downstairs from it, several other shops along the street, and a decently large stretch of Haven Springs that connects these areas. These locations are where 80% of the game takes place, so you’ll become very familiar with them over time. This whole small town setting is a lot like the first Life is Strange. It gives the game a very cozy feeling, and I think I prefer True Colors over Life is Strange 2 because of it. The choices in this one don’t really change the direction of the story in any significant ways, but it’s still worth experiencing at least once. My final time was about 9 hours.