Life Is Strange: True Colors Review – Deeply Moving Tale About Love, Loss and Lies
Life is Strange: True Colors
Review copy provided by the publisher
Alex’s empathetic superpowers know no bounds but not everything is butterflies and rainbows as players delve inside the mind of this new protagonist on her search for truths whilst also discovering hidden depths to herself.
The emotional charged and narrative wonderland of the Life is Strange franchise is back once again after three years and this time, players get to reap the rewards of the creative minds behind Deck Nine Games. Swaying away from its on the road, nomad adventures as seen in Life is Strange 2, True Colors makes itself at home deep into the breathtaking Colorado mountains where love blooms, loss flows, and truths remain uncovered…until now.
Nestled within the bowl of the mighty Colorado snow-sprinkled ridges lies Haven Springs, a beautiful dream-like village that oozes small-town charm and where Alex, heavy with emotional and traumatic baggage, will start her brand new life with her long-lost brother, Gabe.
Note: I’ve tried to keep this review as story spoiler-free as possible but some elements of the narrative may be hinted at.
The opening scenes to Life is Strange: True Colors had me smiling from ear to ear and in an almost trance like stupor. The sheer allure of this place they call Haven Springs was like someone dug around in my brain and took my ideal place to live then presented it in front of me. With its quaint shops, flower-lined streets, gushing streams as it poured from the mouth of a shimmering lake and the hum of nature, this enchanting community had me from the get-go.
Alex Chen, our new protagonist for the series and brought to life through full performance capture by Erika Mori, is a complex and emotionally vulnerable young woman having dealt with the foster care system most of her life. We see her pessimism first hand when Gabe shows his sister around Haven Springs, introducing her to its town folk in which a weary Alex isn’t too sure on whether to hug or shake hands with people.
Keeping in line with the Life is Strange series, Alex has an incredible supernatural power that allows her to see and feel other people’s emotions but unlike the other games, she is acutely aware of it from the beginning and this knowledge has been a burden throughout her life – alienating her from the rest of the world and leaving her in a fragile state of mind.
Without a doubt, one of my favourite places to visit in Haven Springs is the Record Store. From its entire aesthetics to the music playing in the background and how the devs at Deck Nine put so much thought into every minute detail was totally captivating to walk around.
Her powers initially come through as an aura around an individual whenever they start to feel a certain emotion that illuminates in vibrant colours like a cloak. Unfortunately, Alex not only sees them, but she absorbs them into herself leaving her to experience exactly how the other person feels. These colours are easily coded so if they are feeling sad, a blue aura coats their body, red if angry, purple means fear and gold for joy or love.
It wasn’t long before I got to experience for myself pretty soon into Life is Strange: True Colors just how she processes these superhuman powers when an altercation breaks out in which I saw a different side to the timid and awkward Alex. Players will get to see how this “curse”, as she sees it, affects her mentally and also how it puts a strain on her relationships with those around her.
Without a doubt, one of my favourite places to visit in Haven Springs is the Record Store. From its entire aesthetics to the music playing in the background and how the devs at Deck Nine put so much thought into every minute detail was totally captivating to walk around. It’s well worth it to take your time to absorb every album cover, art poster, uncover bites of information as well as saying hello to Valkerie, the store’s feisty cat.
This is where I also got to meet the outspoken but lovable Steph, who originally debuted in Life is Strange: Before the Storm. Bobbing away to music in her recording booth, Steph becomes a close friend of Alex and even, if you choose to, a love interest. There’s an instant undeniable connection but it’s up to the players to choose in what direction they want to take it which is a really refreshing choice-based system that puts the players completely in control of how they want the narrative, and their relationships, to turn out.
It’s the little moments – which could easily be missed – that makes this game so impactful and a delight to explore its five chapters.
One of the many cool things that Deck Nine have done to make you feel really part of the town is by adding an app on Alex’s phone called ‘MyBlock’ that acts as a social media platform for the Haven Spring’s community. Here you get an insight into what’s going on around you like gossip, postings from individuals, companies and your soon to be (maybe?) friends. This particular app is also a pretty nifty investigative tool for when Alex starts her search into how her brother dies and reading all of the comments is most definitely a must to dig up some dirt.
You can also access your text messages, past and present, that allows you to see what was going on in Alex’s life before she came to Haven Springs, most notably from her therapist who provides snippet messages from their sessions together. Thankfully for me, Alex also keeps a well-stocked journal, packed with all of her encounters throughout the entire gameplay which is a great source of information to look back on.
Even though Alex deems herself “broken”, she is able to use her empathetic superpowers for so much good as I saw in her brother’s apartment in a wholesome interaction with Steph which then turned into a kick-ass game of Foosball between us. This newfound skill followed through with many other characters throughout the gameplay that lead to some of the most uplifting moments I’ve had in a long time in any game.
Speaking about moving instances, Deck Nine has implemented a small yet amazing feature that allows Alex to reflect on her thoughts. On the dock of Haven Springs, you can sit and perform a mindfulness technique that allows Alex to reflect on the town and her own thoughts, giving even more insight into what’s going on. It’s honestly a beautiful moment where the camera pans in on some of Haven’s stunning nature hotspots coupled with a playlist to die for that really adds to the tranquillity of the moment.
Just like in The Witcher 3, some NPC’s have full-blown conversations with each other that Alex eavesdrops on, and can even help, as she walks around the town. One of my favourites was a couple who were talking about a video game where one was trying to convince the other to play it as they thought they’d enjoy it but the other wasn’t too sure. Much later on, I saw this couple again in which they were having a conversation about actually trying the game and now they were loving it. It’s little moments like this – which could easily be missed – that makes this game so impactful and a delight to explore its five chapters.
I had waited with bated breath to play Life is Strange‘s next narrative adventure and I can honestly say I wasn’t let down. Every expectation was met and then some.
I don’t want to give certain events in the game away and allow you to explore and experience them for yourself but there are two that stand out that involves a really fun session with Ethan, Gabe’s stepson, and one that involves the entire town in a get-together. My advice on the latter is before you get knee-deep in the shin-dig, take a little walk around the town first and investigate one of the four stores that you can enter for a beautifully tender moment with one of Haven’s residents.
After a really messed up and shocking revelation that begins to conclude the game in true Life is Strange style and also where I got to make some huge choices that shape Alex’s future, the game gave me a glimpse into Alex’s past family dynamics that felt slightly shoe-horned, misplaced and drawn-out for my taste. Although getting this valuable insight into what makes Alex part of who she and also her brother was is was vitally important to tell and really well done, I would have preferred these flashbacks inserted into more suitable key moments spread out during the gameplay as there were ample opportunities instead of rushed towards the end.
At the end of each chapter, Life is Strange: True Colors follows the same procedure as its predecessors in allowing you to compare your choices with other players and to find out exactly where your, and your friends, morals lie that will undoubtedly provide some interesting (possible arguments?) conversations. I had waited with bated breath to play Life is Strange‘s next narrative adventure and I can honestly say I wasn’t let down. Every expectation was met and then some. From the deeply impactful writing, the consequences of choices, and the attention to every detail, True Colors was an experience that I can’t wait to start all over again.