4/5

PS4, PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3 (£3.99)

Life Is Strange doesn't ask much from players. It has puzzles which can be solved with barely a brain muscle taxed and while it has lots of items to examine and use, it doesn't make you search endlessly for them.

At times it feels as if you are merely a passive observer watching a US serial drama but then it clicks. This is about characters and choices and the decisions you make throughout the game infuse it with intrigue and drama of your own making.

To some degree it is like a choose-your-own adventure game. Say the wrong thing; make the wrong move and the consequences will not be immediate but very much apparent much later down the line.

And because this is an episodic game – your £3.99 gets you the first instalment – the developer promises the repercussions will also be felt within subsequent purchases. It's the gaming equivalent of the butterfly effect which, while not a new concept by any means, looks set to triumph here.

The game starts dramatically enough. School kid Maxine Caulfield is introduced lying on the floor in the middle of a storm not quite knowing where she is. But with a jolt, she's in a typical on-screen American high school classroom ruled by a hipster teacher and packed to the brim with oh-so-cool students uttering smart-ass comments, a great many of which can make older gamers feel anciently out-of-touch.

This is where Maxine learns the greatest lesson of her life: her ability to be able to rewind time. It's the central gaming mechanic, allowing for future predictions and the testing of different outcomes. You can never be truly sure if the decisions you make are good or bad. They may work out well at the time but they may well have unintended consequences in the future.

As you play, it's hard not to gain a sense of deja vu. There are echoes, in some small measure, of Ellie in The Last of Us. There is also the same sense that mistakes can be rectified and used to solve problems which flows through the mechanics of Braid. It even has shades of the Shadow of Memories but without the leap back and forth through time periods.

But it works. While it can at times become rather dull as the rewind function can have you witnessing the same scenes over and over again, it succeeds in keeping you guessing. As slow-paced as it is, there are little clues dotted around that eventually see Maxine and former best friend Chloe Price investigating the disappearance of student Rachel Amber and there are some humorous set pieces which lighten the mood while building a feeling of character.

Indeed, if there is anything that really lets it down, it's the graphics. They hark back to a previous console generation (and not necessarily the last either). Character faces can feel creepy and the backgrounds rushed. Some of the voice acting is also wooden and stilted. If the developers are looking for the polish of a HBO series, they haven't quite pulled it off if this first outing is anything to judge it by.

And yet, the plot is what will drive you to buy at least one more episode. This introduction does more than enough to whet your appetite, with a promise of great things to come. At this price, it would be rude not to try.

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