Emotional drama is a great way to tell a story, and in recent times, nothing comes quite as close to the Life is Strange series in pulling on the heartstrings and delivering an impactful story about people. With Life is Strange: True Colors, Square Enix and Deck Nine have put together perhaps the best game in the series thus far, with a renewed focus on examining why humans are the way we are.
Players step into the shoes of Alex Chen, separated from her brother Gabe at the age of 10 and part of the foster care system, the pair eventually found their way to each other and are preparing to settle down in their new home in Haven Springs. While that premise would have been a heartwarming one, Alex hides a big secret.
Continuing the series’ penchant for the supernatural, our heroine is an empath, giving her the ability to read and see emotions in the form of vibrant colours. Furthermore, if the emotions are strong enough, Alex is susceptible to inheriting them. Considering the environments that she has been brought up in, the mental and physical turmoil would have taken a toll.
Yet, now granted a new chance at life, Alex and the players will have to embrace that wholeheartedly, and in doing so, it will involve keeping both the town and herself safe after a significant tragedy shakes the community.
Maintaining the gameplay formula that has served the series well, Life is Strange: True Colors lets players explore their surroundings, interact with objects, and engage in conversations with the people around. Dialogue can veer from the mundane to life-changing, and that power of agency is in your hands whenever the need arises.
However, Alex’s powers add a new layer of complexity to the proceedings. When given the chance, she can use her powers to reveal the true emotions of a particular individual, or even connect with memories of objects lying around. Not only do we get a better understanding of how certain objects or characters fit in the context, but it also allows Life is Strange: True Colors to experiment visually, oftentimes in a striking and distinct fashion.
It all contributes to this being the most beautiful and rich game yet in the series, enhanced by how characters are portrayed throughout the entire story. When it comes to the emotional stakes, the better the folks of Haven Springs can emote, the more connected players will feel to this world. It certainly helps up the ante when you are dealing with people you actually care about.
While it may be easier just to sink Alex into a neverending swirl of negativity and big blows, there is a nice balance in Life is Strange: True Colors when it comes to representing life and the way success or disappointment is a process rather than an emotional bomb that goes off inexplicably. By showing a more restrained take on the narrative, the developers are able to deliver more punch when Alex has to deal with more than she can presumably handle on her plate.
That is not to say that the balance is always maintained well, as the people of Haven Springs are almost too idyllic in a sense. Sure, there are obviously characters with issues, but everyone seems to have some redemptive niceness to them, and that does not seem that similar to real life.
What the other games have done well is to bring a certain level of cynicism that represents the characters’ journeys of overcoming, and although Alex does have her moments, it feels that a happy ending is almost always the conclusion.
Life is Strange: True Colors can take us to places where our heroine is not the solution for every problem, and learning to deal with that is a key element of growth. In other instances, that maturity is swapped for easy choices that are hardly a motivating driver for players or Alex herself.
Such an approach can easily fall on either side of the fence, and it really depends on what you are looking for in the first place.
There is little doubt that Alex and the people of Haven Springs are well written with depth, and there are interesting stories to be discovered that can draw players in, with the town being brought to life wonderfully as well.
But when it comes to the tough decisions and the trauma, Life is Strange: True Colors is much more about positivity while giving the darkness that can help us grow a sliver of room to exist. If only there is a way to showcase both in equal measure, then Deck Nine would have truly created an emotionally powerful journey that fully encapsulates why life is truly that strange.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Probably the best game in the series thus far, Life is Strange: True Colors takes an important journey into the human condition with a few bumps on the road.
Gameplay - 8.5/10
Story - 9.5/10
Presentation - 9/10
Value - 8.5/10