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A - 4 stars - everything's working in concert
B - 3 stars - fun and / or thought provoking
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F - .5 star - predatory, evil, or unplayable
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Favorite Games

Monster Hunter Generations
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Mother 3
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Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty - HD Edition
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty - HD Edition
Pikmin 2
Pikmin 2


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Played in 2023


Games Backloggd

Recently Played See More

Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony

Sep 19

Life is Strange: True Colors
Life is Strange: True Colors

Aug 20

Life is Strange 2
Life is Strange 2

Aug 18

The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit
The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit

Aug 14

Life is Strange: Before the Storm
Life is Strange: Before the Storm

Aug 06

Recently Reviewed See More

This was the longest 14 hour game I have played yet. Flawed at its very foundation, (though it took me until the fourth chapter to understand how), getting through this game was a slog. I just have no idea what my take-away from this game was supposed to be.
The main gameplay concept behind Life is Strange 2 is how the older of two orphans influences the moral development of his younger brother. Lie and steal, and he’ll do the same. Reprimand him for swearing and cheating, and he’ll naturally follow the rules. This gameplay concept is flawed for reasons both aesthetic and structural.
Aesthetically, the younger brother, Daniel, is 9. Maybe if he’d been 14, I could have been swayed to be less than an ideal role model. There is an allure and ambiguity of adulthood with mid-teenagers that becomes complicated with their still-childish impulses. But at 9, and with Daniel looking like a vulnerable 9 year old, any notion of influencing him poorly loses its appeal. Why would I want to fuck up a kid. For gameplay curiosity?
Structurally, there is no cost to picking either route. It is impossible for a chapter to end early, so nothing has weight. Maybe I would have been tempted to steal if my kid brother could literally die of hunger. Maybe choosing violence over diplomacy would feel risky if dumb decisions could get us killed. (You know, like in the first Life is Strange, where Max and Chloe routinely were threatened with gun violence?)
This weightless moral ambiguity also affects how any of the characters can develop in the story. At any given situation, Sean still has to be capable of being a good influence or a bad influence on Daniel. Unlike, say, Geralt in the Witcher 3, who’s dialog options felt like channeling different emotions that used the same fuel, Sean’s behavior can vary wildly between bratty impatience and tumblr-flavored sainthood.
Which affects the core of Life is Strange 2 the most: the relationship between the brothers. I could not tell if they were getting closer or farther apart. I could not tell if they loved each other, or had to love each other because no one else would. I cannot overstate how damning this is for a game that expects me to care about this relationship so much as to possibly compromise my sense of ethics to maintain it. Especially when wide swathes of character development happen and un-happen between chapters. It is a mess.
For example, between chapters Daniel gets kidnapped by a cult. When we find him again, he is reluctant to leave the cult. Then he leaves the cult. Next chapter, he is back to how he was before his indoctrination.
The characters don’t change, relationships don’t change. The scenery changes. The supporting cast is rotated out. There is no story, there are no themes. There is only a sequence of events that by definition I must begrudgingly call a plot.
I am baffled, three games in now, how this series seems to keep straying further and further from what made the first Life is Strange game interesting. Making decisions within a walking simulator is not inherently fun! You need a strong hook for a setting that is rewarding to explore or characters that are compelling, if not likable!
Exploring Arcadia Bay in Life is Strange the first was compelling because you learned new things when you returned to old locations. Environments were dense with details that had texture, that informed you what these people were like through the places they inhabited. Those details mattered because the macro-plot was trying to solve a mystery, so faffing about still had the pretense of a clue hunt.
In Life is Strange 2, the brothers Diaz continually inhabit locales with no population, no history, and no permanence in their lives. Nature parks, hippie communes, retirement trailer parks - all bumps on the road filled with hunger and tragedy. Without a thematic tie in, Life is Strange 2 accidentally becomes something else - softcore misery porn.
Daniel got shot twice in my playthrough, and somehow that had no bearing on his character??? He has nightmares about a cult leader who was nice to him, but no trauma seeing guns???? Sean was maimed, beat up, kidnapped and arrested multiple times, back stabbed, betrayed, and for what? Nothing changes his goal. Nothing challenges his resolve. Nothing even introduces nuance into his thought process, nothing complicates his stated reasons for doing what he does.
Maybe that was more true to my playthrough than others. I read alternative takes for what could have happened, and there were romance options? Queer ones, even? Locked behind one specific even that required me to blow off my kid brother, (who at that point in the story was feeling tired and profoundly lonely), to get high and drunk with some hippies? What in the actual fuck?
At the end of a chapter, the game would show me composites of how the player base had made certain decisions. Among these score boards, I saw one option with a selection rate of 0%. What an absolute failure on the part of the developers, that they spent time on a choice that was either too convoluted in circumstance or so alien in human thought, that not a single person had even chosen it by accident.
D rank, 1 star, absolutely pointless. I want to rage about all the ways I hate their mother, or how confused I am that David from the first two games gets to come back the way he does, but I can’t even find fuel to bitch about all the absolutely insane ways this game wasted my time. A weed farm pruning mini-game? Doing laundry? Dishes?
I am forced to reckon with this series finding its audience through subject matter over depiction. Life is Strange the first shocked me that half the player base chose to run off with the blue haired lesbian love interest, when by all my accounts she was an absolute monster. But, she was a lesbian, and you could love her. I totally understand how that can be enough. I think the story of Life is Strange 2 is abysmal, boring, disjointed, and overall completely unsalvageable, but you get to play as a pair of Latino brothers. I don’t always believe them, but they say they love each other. Although clunky and flawed, I can’t think of another game quite like it in subject matter.

Here I am, playing through the Life is Strange series for the first time, and while the first game made me think the brand identity was going to be about time travel as a unique gameplay mechanic for choose your own adventure games, turns out what actually unites this series is the suffering of minors. Yay!
Seriously, what the hell is this? What compelled people to make this? Who thought a couple hour walking simulator showing me "yup, this kid is real sad his mom is dead and his dad is turning into a deadbeat alcoholic" in multitudinous ways for no pay-off? All so I'd feel... something (?) when I return to the mainline Life is Strange 2?
I am going to use this space to complain about how insane the download process for the Life is Strange games currently are on PSN now that all the episodes have been out for years. Where is the option to download the whole damn game, instead of piecemeal? Why is this chapter it's own "Demo" SKU store listing if the main game will boot me over to it instead of letting me get on with Episode 2?
What is so special about Chris that this little snippet needed to be fleshed out? I have only played one episode of Life is Strange 2, but I know enough from that episode to know that the starring brothers are all that will matter. And knowing that Chris is going to be juxtaposed against Sean and Daniel, who are running from the law as fugitives with no money and a dead dad, I kinda can't care about Chris's struggles as much! He has grandparents who are trying to get custody of him, he has a way out!
1.5 stars, C-/D+ range. It is weird to see the art direction for this series get less focused / worse with every game. As far as these walking simulators go, this one is the most boring and most unrealistic. A 10-11 year old doing dishes, laundry, and clearing the front steps out of boredom? I can believe it a bit since his PS2 is broken, but otherwise, no. This does not feel like a real child. His voice is much younger than his appearance, his maturity level feels too manufactured to tug on my hearstrings because he is a saint. (Which also makes me feel weird that he can only be a saint while the Hispanic kids from the main game can be serial thieves! Choices!)
I cannot imagine what possible impact this save file will have on Life is Strange 2 going forward, what a complete waste of time.

Before the Storm has at least crystalized for me where some of the appeal of Life is Strange lay. It’s easy to imagine undoing a life-altering event, or using time travel for money or self-satisfaction, but Life is Strange reveled in the ability to perfect the mundane. To know just what to say not to save the world, but to avoid embarrassment talking to people you’ll likely never meet again. Take that away from the high school setting, and boy do teenage concerns feel petty and stupid fast.
Before the Storm has an across the board approach to writing that seems to go, “if you spend more time with a character, you’ll care about them more.” An obviously flawed approach, as I sure didn’t learn anything interesting or endearing from spending time with Chloe, or her mom, or mom’s new boyfriend, or Rachel, or Frank, or anyone else. But we sure did spend time with them! All pantomiming out the core character descriptors that defined them in the first game without adding depth or nuance.
Sorry game, learning more about mom’s ex-military boyfriend didn’t excuse how he treats Chloe! Explanations are not excuses or even rationalizations! He’s not good for her, can’t be, won’t be! That Chloe’s mom keeps trying to make them like each other is misguided, and shows that she doesn’t care about Chloe! Which Chloe could make peace with if her mom wasn’t huffing and throwing a hissy fit all the time that her teenage daughter, self-destructing over the loss of her dead dad, isn’t immediately warming up to the man she’s settling to replace him with!
Sorry again, trying to humanize drug-dealer Frank is just bizarre when I know there is a non-zero chance Chloe will shoot him dead a couple months after this game ends! Especially when it establishes that he commits murder to save Chloe’s life??? And then Rachel will sleep with him later????
Learning more about Chloe’s pre-blue-hair life didn’t make me like Chloe more, either. Chloe was my least favorite part of Life is Strange, so having her be the main character intrigued me. Turns out giving her more screen time just makes her pitiable without making her actions in the first game any less insufferable!
What I was not expecting, however, was how much this game would undercut its own possibility of an identity, and the already shaky foundations of the character writing for the supporting cast, by trying to have everyone perform the exact. same. plot. with some of the roles shuffled around.
Because now Rachel is the manic bisexual pixie dream girlfriend and Chloe is just a poser! Instead of digging into Chloe’s characterization at all, we just shift the dynamic so that Rachel is an even bigger insufferable asshole, making Chloe feel tame by comparison! (But make no mistake, Chloe is still a foul-mouthed, self-destructive, graffiti-happy loose cannon!)
Conceptually, I am so against knowing anything about Rachel. Rachel’s existence in the first game was not to be a character, but a motivation, a concept, a force of nature. Everyone loved her to an impossible degree, and in not knowing anything about her, she could be everything Chloe said and needed her to be. What mattered was how Chloe could not cope with her loss, and forced Max to try to fit into that mold instead.
Seriously. Rachel has money, looks, popularity, ability, grades, talent, friends, family. Chloe’s acting out at least made a kind of sense in the first game, coming from a poor, broken, grief-stricken home with no prospects, abandonment issues, and no social currency or respect. Chloe was not justified in her behavior and was a terrible influence on Max, but she at least had real problems! Meanwhile, Rachel suspects her father is having an affair, throws a tantrum, skips school with Chloe, gets Chloe expelled, and lights a forest fire that burns for days with zero remorse or consequences.
Which could all be fine, except the game keeps asking me to empathize with Rachel, when I cannot. Rachel repeatedly blows past Chloe’s pain about her actually dead father to say that her pain about her dad’s infidelity is totally just as, if not more, important. Rachel takes for granted that Chloe gets expelled for the meager gain of Rachel - not getting kicked out of the school play??? In what possible world are those two events equivalent?
She manipulates Chloe’s loneliness without acknowledging the difference in class and circumstance, the difference in distance between what seems reasonable or possible! She claims that Chloe influences her, when she is in situations that are of her own design already! She doesn’t offer her money, influence, or resources to improve Chloe’s life, but expects Chloe to go along with her impetuous and childish demands!
Now that I know Rachel was so incredibly, incomprehensibly selfish, Chloe’s admiration in Life is Strange is pathetic. Her level of dedication could only ever be described as projection, in the same way she was projecting special-ness onto Max, but to see the reality of the object of her attention is just sad.
I am so confused as to the motivation behind this game. I have been to these locations. The character models somehow look worse, and the 60 fps frame rate makes the uncanny animations stick out even more than the last game. As stated at the beginning, without the time travel mechanic, I don’t understand what the appeal of the gameplay is supposed to be.
Consider the junkyard level. In Life is Strange, Max has to collect some trinkets as an excuse to explore some light environmental puzzle solving using her time travel powers. It teaches you she can remove a barrier, get to the other side, then rewind the environment to be on the other side of the barrier. In Before the Storm, there are no puzzles. It’s just a scavenger hunt. A fetch quest with no giver. Pure time padding. And this happens twice.
What Chloe has instead of time travel powers are… multiple choice yelling matches. Because her superpower is being rude to people so much that she gets her way.
Of course, what makes this game the most baffling is the knowledge of it being a pre-quel. I know that Chloe is supposed to die for the character development of someone who isn’t in this game! And Rachel will die for Chloe’s character development in a different game! This also robbed me of any interest in responding to certain NPCs in ways that might have been interesting without that knowledge. Why try to be nice to Nathan when I know he becomes a murderer? Why even have Victoria around?
I rolled my eyes at the shoe-horned evil men in the final chapter. Of course the male interested in Chloe had to be a stalker, the way that Warren was ambiguously, dream-sequencily implied to be obsessed with Max. (Chloe is revealed to have a daily journal of writing letters to Max she never sends, deifying her as a goddess of her loneliness! Which makes her attachment to Max in Life is Strange so, so much worse!) Of course there had to be a twist-villain who turned to murder for reasons that did not at all make sense with his character or reputation. Second verse, same as the first, recreating narrative structure without purpose or novelty.
1.5 stars, C- / D+ rank from me. No humor, no easter eggs, no hidden details that made me feel I was exploring a passion of love like I felt in the first game. Far be it from me to decry or deprive the world from having games about toxic bisexual teens, but for the love of games, please make them interesting.