By my choice, this review does spoil Life is Strange: Out of Time’s final scene. It is relevant to the game, the story and to all incoming players as far as I’m concerned, but feel free to ignore this review if you’d rather not be spoiled.
Life is Strange’s second episode left a very uneasy feeling in my chest. It’s closure, as dark as it was, brought me to a very scary and real place, and evoked something in me that I’ve rarely experienced in games. On journey’s through The Last of Us, Heavy Rain, and other stories of that ilk, I’ve felt my chest tighten and tension lead to the sweating of hands, but Out of Time’s portrayal took me to another intensity level altogether. It’s both impressive and still unnerving.
This second trip in Max Caulfield’s time-traveling shoes spends much more time with it’s lead characters and developing their relationships to you, as both the player and her character. Where Chrysalis seemed like just that, a cocoon to steadily allow you to enter the world, and set the groundwork for possible conflicts in the future, Out of Time very much felt like a strong addition. Telltale notoriously has had trouble with their second episodes, save for The Walking Dead’s, but Dontnod possibly outlines where they took missteps in pacing, and artfully avoids those same mistakes.
Before we only had a rough idea of Warren’s ties to Max, or just how much of a dick Nathan Prescott really was. Here, we get several elongated scenes with both characters, as well as with Kate Marsh, Chloe, newcomer Frank, and Chloe’s mother Joyce. Instead of feeling overwhelming adding these characters to the already balanced list of Victoria, the worst principal ever and Madsen, all interesting characters already complemented by a fine assortment of school-goers, Life is Strange just grows comfortably into something wider, with a better idea of who and what it is.
The world of Arcadia Bay just feels more fleshed out, like a real place. Maybe it’s just the comforting, yet still very Oregon-hipster vibe the game gives off, but my second day in Arcadia Bay felt like a trip to somewhere very real. Episode two again nails the presentation up and down, with another musical title card that reinforces the exact teenage tone Life is Strange is trying to portray. From the look to the music to the dialogue, as weird as it may be sometimes, it is consistent with itself, and continues to be compelling.
Unfortunately Out of Time slogs a bit when it asks you to hunt for bottles in one of it’s highest and most introspective points. It cuts pretty deep into the pacing of the episode, but just about every other second of this entry keeps an appropriately casual pace that feels comfortable throughout all of its vistas and sights.
The final portion of the episode, which strips you of your time powers, and has you cautiously attempting to save Kate Marsh from suicide is understandably upsetting. Kate was my favorite character through these first two episode because I related to her as someone who suffers from depression. Seeing her enter a dark place and come to the brink of death is at the very least deeply unsettling. I was lucky to save her, but I fear the affect her death would have had on me should I not have stopped her. It’s a horrifyingly tense situation, and it’s difficult to say it goes “too far” in any regard, because it feels rightfully earned and scarily punishing. I agree with the sentiment that you should know of a potential suicide scene going into this episode, especially if you suffer from anxiety or depression.
Out of Time is compelling, down to the bone. It smartly focuses it’s time on all the wonderful characters that populate Arcadia Bay, and steers away from its still far off conflict. It goes to some dark places, but earns them; just be warned: this episode will have very serious consequences.