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April 2024

Life Is Strange: True Colors

Platform(s): Google Stadia, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Deck Nine Games
Release Date: Sept. 9, 2021


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Switch/PS5/PS4/XSX/XOne/PC Preview - 'Life is Strange: True Colors'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Sept. 3, 2021 @ 9:00 a.m. PDT

Life Is Strange: True Colors is a new entry in the Life is Strange franchise featuring an all-new playable lead character, a new power and a thrilling mystery to solve!

Pre-order Life is Strange: True Colors

Life is Strange: True Colors follows the story of Alex Chen, who has lived a difficult life. She's moved from foster home to halfway house and beyond, and she's been never able to stay anywhere for very long. All of that seems set to change when Alex's brother Gabe invites her to live with him in the idyllic mountain town of Haven Springs. Unfortunately, Alex isn't there for long before Gabe is killed in a tragic accident. Struggling to recover from yet another tragedy in her life, Alex is now forced to investigate the cause of the accident to find out what led to her brother's tragic demise.

True Colors follows the basic gameplay that has been in the franchise for a while. At its heart, it's more of a playable visual novel than anything else. You control Alex and walk around various environments as you interact with people and make dialogue or action choices that determine how people view her and how they behave toward her. Sometimes these are minor choices, like if you're positive or negative about Alex's new hometown. Other times, they can be significant, such as telling a woman her boyfriend started a fight instead of pretending that he had been provoked. Of course, since it's the series trademark, Alex does this with the help of a superpower.

Alex's power comes in the form of a sort of super-empathy. In its weakest form, Alex can see colored auras around people that represent their emotional state: red for anger, Purple for fear, and so on. She can even sense emotions connected to objects in the environment, like a crack in the wall radiating with red anger because someone damaged it in a fit of rage. Not only can she sense the emotions, but she also senses the thoughts and feelings behind them — sort of a limited ESP.

Empathy can be useful in small doses, but if someone is feeling an emotion to an excessive degree, Alex can't help but empathize with them to the point of losing control. If someone nearby is frothing with anger, Alex will also become overwhelmed by anger. If someone is so scared that they can't move, Alex will feel all of that fear, too. This is the reason her life has been so difficult. At its most extreme, Alex can see the world in a way that's overwhelmed by emotion, and that can twist reality into something alien and abnormal.

The first chapter only provides a few examples of this, but they feel serious. Notes and information that you can read in Alex's phone also reveal that this isn't a one-time thing. Alex doesn't have a long history of violence because she's a violent person, but other people's violence can overwhelm her. It's an interesting angle to what could otherwise be a simple superpower.

There are some puzzle elements to True Colors, but it's difficult to say how much impact they will have based on what we've seen in a single chapter. Early on, Alex gets the chance to help out at the Black Lantern, the bar where Gale works. You can do the bare minimum and get by, but if you're willing to solve a few puzzles involving missing whiskey, you can make a better impression, which seems like it'll have an impact down the line. If it's like the other Life is Strange games, there may be puzzles that determine who lives and who dies, so it'll be interesting to see how True Colors pulls it off.

Simple exploration has its fun points. There is a lot of hidden dialogue and secrets to discover. Some introduce new parts of the backstory or deeper details about characters, while others are just for a laugh. There are also neat interactable games to play. My favorite is a bizarre mix of Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, which is a surprisingly addictive concept. There's sure to be a lot more down the line once we play the later chapters.

Speaking of chapters, True Colors is no longer sold in multiple parts but as one full game. It's still divided into chapters, and after each chapter, you can see how many other players have made the same (or different) choices. This has been around a while, but it's nice to keep around. The decision to release it as one game also influences how the narrative plays out. Rather than having to wait weeks or months for the next chapter, you can move right along.

Life is Strange: True Colors has a ton of potential. The setting of Haven Springs and the cast that's introduced in the first chapter are extremely likeable. It seems like an idyllic town full of genuinely nice people, but with tragedy on the horizon, it's obvious that the true colors of the town will come out in full force. I look forward to getting to play the rest of the chapters before the game's release next week to see if it lives up to the franchise's strong reputation.

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