Life is Strange: True Colors Review (Spoiler Free)
You can take comfort here knowing I am not going to give away any story elements here in this review. After all, that’s the main fun in playing the Life is Strange series, isn’t it.
Life Is Strange: True Colors is a graphic adventure played from a third-person view. The player controls the protagonist, Alex Chen, to explore various locations in the fictional setting of Haven Springs and communicate with non-playable characters through the conversation system based on dialogue trees. Alex has psychic empathy power that allows her to read and manipulate the emotions, which she perceives as colorful auras, to physically see how others feel around her at the cost of being “infected” by their emotions. Some of the non-player characters will have more intense auras indicating trauma or hardship they may be going through. When Alex interacts with them, this creates a “nova” that appears to transform the world around Alex and the character to reflect elements of this trauma, allowing the player to figure out what exactly is wrong and to opt to guide Alex in helping to comfort the character.
Haven is a beautiful small mining town set in the mountains. The town itself is almost a character, the colors, the sounds, the people are very much a part if not vital to what makes True Colors an amazing experience. Virtually the entire game takes place on one small street, but it doesn’t feel like it. You have all the great small town tropes in a local bar, record store, flower shop, and because of its local….a dispensary. All of which you explore and interact with quite often on your adventure.
The main focus of True Colors is the exploration of emotions: Joy, Anger, Sadness…wait this sounds a lot like a Pixar film….but I assure you it is not. Alex is a very fleshed-out character that comes with a lot of baggage. Now, the Life is Strange series is already known for having teenage angsty characters and issues, but this one just feels different, more grown-up for sure. Alex’s empath powers are really a narrative driver to explore how she deals with her own emotions and how emotions impact others. There are truly some absolutely gut-wrenching decisions to make throughout this game, there were many times I would just pause put the controller down, and really think about where I wanted this to go. It really feels like this was truly an evolution in the series. From the animations, art style, music, and story this just felt like a true “next-gen” experience for Life is Strange. There have been some reports of system issues, freezes, force closes, and such but I, fortunately, did not experience any of those. I had only one lone character animation glitch that lasted all of two seconds. So your experience may differ of course.
True Colors is just filled to the brim with special moments that stick with you long after you have put the game down. If I weren’t so busy with upcoming releases and my backlog, I would probably have started a second run-through and made some different choices, not that I regret any of mine, but to see how much the game changes because of that. I will say one note of criticism is that some choices didn’t seem to really affect the story as I would have thought they would, but maybe I had just set my expectations too high. But all in all, having a character whose ability is to have empathy really makes you think about what is important in life and what really matters. The developer really took time to make sure you are invested in this story with a fully fleshed-out main character with an incredible supporting cast. There are many interactions too that if you just try to rush through the game and not enjoy the smaller, quieter moments, that you could easily miss that can affect things in the end game, so take your time and enjoy. This is the first time in the series you will be able to “binge-game” the entire thing as all the chapters are included from the start. There is DLC planned to follow someone else’s story to release later this year so my adventure isn’t quite over yet.
I will say with full honesty, that I have never been a Life is Strange fan. All though I have tried them all, something always seems to turn me off. Either too dull, characters not likable enough, too teenage angst, etc. True Colors turned me around with what I would consider a more approachable take on the series. This game (for me) has been one of my highlights in gaming for the year so far. This one will stick with me for some time to come, although not finding a way to shoehorn Cyndi Lauper’s smash hit with the same name….was a HUGE miss.