By Jeison Liranzo
During every moment in Life Is Strange: True Colors, I felt fireworks of empathy inside of me. (Life is Strange: True Colors is a graphic adventure video game developed by Deck Nine and published by Square Enix’s Europe, released on September 10, 2021 across all platforms except mobile, with Nintendo Switch still to come.) In the game full of a cornucopia of drama, our sharp, witty, hardened protagonist Alex Chen experiences the emotions of others. While playing the new version of this long-running series, I learned to be more sympathetic, to look at the world through other people’s eyes, that those close to us go through a lot even though they may not display it, and that our actions – no matter how small – have consequences.
True Colors follows Alex Chen as she solves a mystery about what happened on the night of her brother’s death. Alex and her brother were separated for eight years because of the foster system they dealt with. For those eight years, she lived in many orphanages where she grew up thinking her abilities were a curse because the other kids’ anger, sadness, and fears would consume her since she couldn’t control her powers. That led to her being labeled a “problem child,” because she got in a lot of fights, and it also made her confused about her own true feelings, since she was always feeling the emotions of others. As you play, you can watch Alex learn more about herself: how ro up to people, appreciate her abilities, and feel happiness.
All of your actions during gameplay have different effects on the story; even side missions affect the main quest, because if players complete the task, they gain the support of the characters later on in the story. For example, there is a mission about a flower shop, in which its owner, Eleanor, finds out she has a disease, and her granddaughter Riley has to sacrifice her future to take care of Eleanor. In this assignment, you act as emotional support for both of them, and by helping them ease their worries, you earn their trust, which helps you in a scene later on. I really liked how the developers for every chapter added more content to all the side quests. There is always a variety of extra things to do in all the chapters. There are also objects in the game that allow you to use Alex’s powers to see emotions. Using these, you to learn more about the backstories of characters. That helps you put information together so you can figure out the mystery ahead of time.
You can also read texts on Alex’s phone, the conversations between her and other characters (I found some of them extremely funny). And you’ll win trophies just for reading the emotions of the objects and surroundings. For example, their were gummies that players were able to use the powers on. It was surrounded by a blue aura since it was a sad memory where players find out Gabe had insomnia. There were many great moments, like the entirety of Chapter Three in which we see that Alex has finally found a home, and everyone treats one another as family.
As in the rest of the series, the gameplay is straightforward, so it’s simple for new players to get the hang of the controls easily. You walk around, look at things, and tap buttons to read information or interact with other people. The only new thing is how you use your new ability to empathize by tapping the buttons as prompted when you first use your abilities.
True Colors was well written and connected all the characters together. We got to see them grow, and we got to feel like detectives because we were on a crime solving mystery where we had to put all piecs of evidence together to solve the crime. But I wish that we had been able to meet more of the townspeople. We see some of them over and over, like Riley, Duckie, and Eleanor, which made it seem like we only had access to a single street, instead of the whole town. I wanted the place to be more populated, because I enjoyed seeing Alex interact with people.
Still, in my opinion this new Life is Strange game is a big improvement over previous versions, in which facial expressions were hard to read, and the characters’ animation didn’t always match the audio. They had the same blank facial expressions for nearly the duration of the game. But now you can see their anger, sadness, and fear, particularly in Chapter Three’s final Charlotte scene. It seems as if the characters are really communicating with each other, since we can see their facial expressions change as they speak. And in the latest version, exploring the Locations feels more comfortable since the characters movement animations were more smoother, especially when interacting with NPCs and objects. The graphics generally also look a lot better: we can see more details in scenarios like the bridge, where we see beautiful flowers, expansive mountain views and flowing rivers. I played Life is Strange on the PS4, which made me wish I could have experienced it on the PS5 – it would have probably been even more amazing visually.
My favorite part of the game was the soundtrack because of how well designed it was. That’s unsurprising, because all of the Life is Strange games have killer soundtracks. Every chance I got to listen to the soundtrack, I took it. Sometimes I ended up just sitting in the locations because I wanted to hear the songs twice. Some of my favorites (which I enjoyed even though they were different in genre) were “When You Call” by Cyrus Reynolds Featuring Bellsaint, “Creep” by Mxmtoon, and “Check Raise” by Pyrric. But the song that moved me the most was “Cobwebs and Rainbows” by Dick Walter, which was played in one of my favorite scenes of the game, when we cheer up Duckie, one of the best characters. I felt he was like a grandpa to us, and he was also adorable. I’ll always remember that in one of the chapters there was a scene were players get to see Alex and Duckie bond over Alex giving him a free drink and his reaction was emotive and sweet especially since he was wearing an elf custom.
I recommend True Colors to anyone who enjoyed the other Life is Strange games, because it upgrades the graphics, story, and character development. In every chapter, I was at the edge of my seat and busy making up theories about why a character might be involved in the wrongdoing that happens in the main story. You’ll fall in love with all the characters, which is what made the plot twist in the final chapter even more hurtful. True Colors seems just as colorful as real-life – maybe even more so.
Bronx native Jeison Liranzo is a New York Videogame Critics Circle intern. He is attending Brooklyn College as a freshman in the creative writing program.
Jeison Liranzo is a rookie New York Videogame Critics Circle intern, part of our ongoing partnership with the DreamYard Prep School.