I review movies on this site. It’s in the blog’s name.
But I have to talk about this.
Because I don’t know if I can stand listening to conversations about this year in film – the best acting, directing, visuals and story – and not be able to bring up Life Is Strange.
Now I’ve seen a total of 15 films this year, including the spectacular Room. But I’m going to come right out and say it. Life Is Strange may not be a movie, but it is the most emotional, powerful, and downright phenomenal experience to come out of 2015.
For those who are unaware, Life Is Strange is a video game that was released as five separate episodes over a period of time. By now, all five episodes are out, so you don’t have to suffer the insanely long wait times in between episodes. (Especially since Episodes 3 and 4 ended on massive cliffhangers.) If you’re not a gamer, you can watch somebody’s playthrough on YouTube, but I promise it will be a far more rewarding experience if you go out and play the game for yourself.
When Max Caulfield was 13, she moved away from her hometown for life in the big city. After five years, she’s back in Arcadia Bay to study photography at Blackwell Academy, an elite private school with world renowned photographer Mark Jefferson as a teacher. In the end, it’s still typical high school life, complete with friends like Warren Graham and Kate Marsh, and enemies like Victoria Chase and Nathan Prescott. And there’s also a dose of mystery regarding Rachel Amber, a girl who went missing under mysterious circumstances.
Max doesn’t try to be too nosy. In fact, she’s a very shy girl. She’s too afraid of rejection to submit a photo in the ‘Everyday Heroes’ contest, and she doesn’t know when is the right time to contact her former best friend, Chloe Price. But on Monday, October 7, 2013, Max is in Mr. Jefferson’s class. And although she doesn’t know it yet, her life is about to take an entirely different turn, for better or worse.
Some people complain that video games are becoming too much like movies. I don’t see much of a problem with this. Movies are pretty amazing already, but a movie that allows you to step into the shoes of the main character is a definite yes for me. I’ve already found games like Portal and Batman: Arkham City to be very powerful, but Life Is Strange has become easily my favorite video game. But because of how cinematic the game is, I keep wanting to mention it in my Oscar prediction articles. Life Is Strange is as good as any Oscar contending movie this year, if not better.
One might think that this is a game, and that games are supposed to be fun. But ‘fun’ is hardly the word I would use to describe Life Is Strange. Don’t go into this game expecting it to be fun. Instead, go into this game with a box of tissues by your side. (And then don’t be surprised when they’re all gone by the time the game is over.)
It’s tough to say what makes Life Is Strange so perfect. Mainly because it really doesn’t feel like fiction. It just feels like life. A pretty hectic life, to say the least. But still, life. While the hand-painted look of the characters can be crafted up to art style – the facial animation and lip synching are pretty off, but luckily you might not even notice this due to how PERFECT the voice acting is.
Yes, I believe that voice acting is acting, and this ensemble is flat out perfect. Hannah Telle is sublime as Max Caulfield. In crucial supporting roles, we have the fantastic Nik Shriner, the terrific Derek Phillips, the amazing Don McManus and the powerful Dayeanne Hutton.
And then we have Ashly Burch, who plays the role of Chloe Price, Max’s former best friend who has changed quite a bit since Max last saw her. I’m gonna call it right now – one of the greatest vocal performances of all time. Ashly Burch breathes both ferocity and vulnerability into the character, often simultaneously, making her seem so much like a real person. To the point where you quickly forget it is a performance. In a perfect world, no discussion of the 2015 Best Supporting Actress race would be complete without mentioning Ashly Burch.
Please don’t expect game reviews to become a regular thing on this site, because it won’t be. I just needed to talk about this. Especially, since how this is an Oscar blog, and I know that nothing I do could make Life Is Strange eligible for the Oscars.
But let me dream for just one moment.