Deck Nine and Square Enix really outdid themselves with Life Is Strange: True Colors. So much so in fact, I’d be willing to come right out of the gate and say this is the best Life Is Strange game.
It’s also one of the best games of 2021 and will without a shadow of a doubt be in my lineup of GOTY candidates. As for why, it’s because Life Is Strange: True Colors knows exactly what it wants to do and the story it wants to tell, and does so flawlessly.
Life Is Strange: True Colors Review | Magnum Opus
The story introduces players to Alex Chen, a young woman who’s endured a painful life and is looking to start anew in Haven Springs, Colorado with her brother, Gabe.
You get hints of this painful past at the start of the game, but the extent of what Alex has gone through prior to her arrival in Haven is left for you to find out as you play through the game.
You get bits and pieces in each chapter, with those clues all culminating in a set of bombshell reveals during the final two powerhouse chapters. It’s in these final chapters where you realize how connected everything is in the game’s story, and always has been.
With these connections, I will say that I think certain aspects of the game’s story may strike players as rather convenient, particularly when Alex finds a very special item in a very unlikely place. I can’t go into detail on this as I want to keep this review free of spoilers.
However, I will say that if you take the time to really explore Haven, the item’s inclusion ends up making sense and feels rather fitting.
I also would have liked to have seen a little bit more of Alex’s backstory earlier on (in reference to this item) and in regards to the texts you’re able to read in Alex’s phone at the start of the game that provide a brief backstory as to what she’s been through.
That said, I do understand why the game saves those details for later as they’re more impactful once you’ve formed a connection to Alex as a character, so this is more me talking from personal preference (and being nitpicky in general).
Overall, I like how the game understands the importance of making sure players feel invested in the characters and the town itself, and really takes the time to establish these connections.
I remember being constantly in awe of all the little details in Life Is Strange: True Colors from the sound changing when you walk on different surfaces, to being able to walk by and listen to other people’s conversations.
I adored the opportunities the game provided me to listen to NPCs hang around and chat as most of these conversations were genuinely interesting. There’s also continuity within these conversations throughout the course of the game.
For example, you see a man thinking of opening a diner, and then later you meet him again when that diner is open. Another example is there are two male NPCs with one being a writer and the other being the writer’s supportive boyfriend.
You get to hear the conversation from that angle, and it’s really sweet. Again, trying to keep this review spoiler free.
I highly recommend stopping and listening when you come across two characters having a conversation, like the writer and the writer’s boyfriend, and you’ll see what I mean.
Even the buildings themselves have character with signs and flyers outside showing business hours and promotions. And can we talk about the design inside these shops?
Everything has a beautiful small town feel to it from the cute decorations in the flower shop, to the carved bear in The Black Lantern, to how realistic the pot shop looks.
For me, all of the little details help make the town of Haven Springs, Colorado come alive and feel real.
Is the town design perfect? Not quite, as the illusion breaks a bit once you reach the end of the street on either end of the town. You can see more buildings, but you obviously can’t go over and look at them.
You also see NPCs on those off-limits side edges of the game behaving… well, like stereotypical NPCs. Is this a make or break kind of thing?
Absolutely not, but I do think having the main street end on a river or forest entry on either end would have helped hold up the illusion a bit better as those feel like natural stopping points.
Not to mention there are plenty of these areas surrounding the town already, like the dock where you can sit and soak up the scenery for a bit.
What helps set these moments of calm apart from similar opportunities in previous Life Is Strange games is the amazing soundtrack. Life Is Strange: True Colors knows how to leave an emotional imprint on you through its strategically placed music.
I actually cried when I heard the opening song play at the beginning of the game where you meet up with Gabe for the first time.
For some reason, the song hit me so hard, and it’s not the only song in the game to do that. What also hit me hard was Alex’s on/off relationship with playing guitar, as I’ve experienced this myself. Not only this, but the instrument is there to help ground her in certain moments as well.
Adding to this, the in-game guitar is designed beautifully; it looks like a real acoustic guitar akin to something like a Martin or Taylor… which is a trip because of who bought it for her and how long it must have taken them to save up for it.
And I’m crying again.
Another moment in the game that hit me particularly hard was the conversation Alex has with Charlotte where Charlotte is struggling with the thought that she’s a bad mother.
She’s obviously not, but it shows how complex our emotions are. I’ve felt that same self-directed anger that Charlotte felt before, but I’ve never spoken about it openly.
Seeing the subject be broached and put into perspective in a game like Life Is Strange: True Colors was a pleasant surprise. As for why, I’ve always told myself I’d never be like my mother when I had a child. I’d never yell, I’d never get frustrated.
I want so desperately to be the parent I wished I’d had when I was younger; it’s a constant thought in the back of my mind. So when I do get frustrated, when I do feel myself starting to raise my voice, I feel like the worst parent in the world. Every single time.
I feel like I’ve failed the most important person in my life, and that they’re going to grow up to hate me. When Charlotte was having that moment in the game I genuinely felt her anger and anguish, and I couldn't help but break out into tears.
To be honest, I actually needed to take a break from the game after this scene, and this wasn't the first (or last) cry break I'd need to take with Life Is Strange: True Colors.
Note that it’s not a negative to need to take a break from an emotional moment in a game like Life Is Strange. If anything, it’s a good thing as it shows just how effective the game’s writing is at pulling those emotions out of you.
I’m honestly not sure if the game hit me so hard because of how much I relate to Alex, or how attached I became to these characters with me not wanting to see them hurt or struggling.
Whatever the reason is, a work of fiction being able to bring these sorts of emotions out is a sign of fantastic writing. Everyone who worked on this game’s story should be very, very proud of themselves.
The story knocks it out of the park and then some, and not only that, it also neatly wraps up all of the loose threads by the end. Gameplay wise as well, Life Is Strange: True Colors is far more elaborate in its puzzles and uses Alex’s power to the fullest.
With Alex, she not only has the ability to read people’s emotions, she can also read emotions through objects, and you do this a number of times to help people throughout the course of the game.
One example I can give that’s probably vague enough to not get me in trouble spoiler wise is when Alex talks to Duckie at The Black Lantern during the Spring Festival. Duckie is there alone, and you can step away from the Spring Festival to go in and cheer him up.
When you’re doing this, you see items in The Black Lantern in a brand new way and how they’re tied to Duckie. I loved this about the game, along with the difficult decision the game gives you on whether or not to take a person’s emotions from them.
The ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ type moments are among the numerous strong points of the game. Characters are another strong point. Alex herself is a strong character of course, but what helps is that she’s also surrounded by other strong characters.
Ethan is a kid with remarkable creativity, Charlotte sculpts gorgeous artwork, Steph is a witty badass, and Ryan… well, Ryan is my favorite bird expert himbo. I really loved Ryan, he’s adorable and I hope to see more of him and Steph in another Life Is Strange game.
Even the villains in the game – with the exception of the Typhon corporation itself – have some redeemable qualities to them. You can choose to forgive all of them, and that’s probably the hardest part of the game. After everything some of these characters do, can you really forgive them?
For me, I did. I forgave all of them when the game presented the opportunity because it felt like something Alex would have done. Forgiveness and empathy are the running themes of Life Is Strange: True Colors, and the way the game broaches these topics borders on the therapeutic.
The game shows real strategies for coping with difficult situations, like the LARP with Ethan. The LARP itself is hilarious by the way and turns the game into a turn-based RPG for a brief moment which made me laugh out loud. Well that, and Ryan pretending to be a snake monster.
Before you attend the LARP, you have a talk with Ethan and I love how the game approaches this part and gives you Ethan’s perspective of not wanting to disappoint anyone because he’s sad.
He’s aware of how his emotional state affects the adults around him, and this parallels Alex in a way as well. The game has something to teach you in all of these poignant moments, and for that reason among many others, the game is a 10/10 for me.
You walk away feeling like you went through rigorous therapy and Alex’s happiness at the end is yours as well, because you made it through with her. I love this, and I love this game.
In conclusion, if you want a game that will shake up your emotions in ways you didn’t know you needed your emotions shaken, Life Is Strange: True Colors is a must-play.
- Exceptional writing with characters that feel real, text conversations that are interesting to read, and great foreshadowing that makes the twists and turns hit home even more.
- Believable villains, and an emphasis on character forgiveness not just among these villains, but also in teaching characters to forgive themselves as well.
- Gorgeous visuals that make you feel right at home in Haven. This is a town anyone would love to live in.
- Wrings out every last drop of emotion from your body, but in the best possible way.
- You’re going to need a lot of tissues to get through this one.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review.