Year Made: 2015 (Episodes 3-5 to be released at later dates)
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360
Price: First Episode: $4.99; All 5 Episodes: $19.99
Content Areas: English, Social Studies, Health
Suggested Age Level: Upper High School
Play Length: 3 hours
Number of Players: Single Player
Difficulty Rating: Medium
Warnings: This game contains violence, drug use, alcohol use, profanity, and sexual themes.
First, if you have not read the original review of episode one, “Chrysalis,” click here to read it now! I recommend reading the first review of the game's first installment before reading on for the review of "Out of Time." The first review discusses the game overall while this review focuses on the takeaways of "Out of Time" and its storyline specifically.
Life is Strange raises the stakes with every decision made in episode two, “Out of Time.” The second episode allows the player to see how their decisions from the first episode play out in the next day of Max’s life at Blackwell Academy. The game wastes no time in pulling Max straight into the drama and difficult choices she faces. While the last episode focused on introducing characters and getting to know Chloe and her home life, this episode heavily focuses on darker themes that “Chrysalis” only hinted at: sexual assault, school cover-ups, futility of choice, and - most prominent for “Out of Time” - the extreme bullying of timid Kate Marsh.
In “Out of Time,” Max discovers the limits and risks of her ability and the episode forces players to make tougher decisions about the use of her powers. We also learn that some of the residents of Arcadia Bay are just as dangerous to Max and Chloe as the students of Blackwell are. However, it is student Kate Marsh’s story that convinced me that not only should Life is Strange work its way into classrooms, but that every teacher needs to play this game.
In the first episode, Kate Marsh was just an odd, quiet girl known for her devotion to Christianity and her promotion of an abstinence campaign. The most that happened with Kate in “Chrysalis” was Max’s decision to intervene when the security guard bullies her, leaving Kate aloof and the player unsure of why she was acting so strangely. In “Out of Time,” the first topic of news in the girls’ dorm is a viral video of Kate at a party where she is intoxicated and with a number of boys. Max first can make simple choices, such as whether or not she erases the link to the video on the bathroom mirror or if she encourages other students to stop watching the video. However, as soon as Max talks to Kate, it becomes apparent that something much worse than a night of partying has taken place, and it is haunting Kate day and night. From there, the decisions deepen: go to the police or do nothing, answer a call from Kate or focus on Chloe, confront her harassers or say nothing. The climax of “Out of Time” puts players in an unenviable position that even Max’s abilities can’t help. By the end of “Out of Time,” both Max and the player are left rethinking their decisions and wondering what they could have done differently to change the story.
In real life, teachers don’t have the power to reverse time and change our decisions, but we do have the power to impact a student’s life, for better or for worse. The climax of Kate Marsh’s storyline in this episode left me thinking and rethinking every interaction I have had with a student. As teachers, we do our best to show students that we care and that we support them. We are not perfect by any means, but we have the ability to impact students every day. For the students that are bullied, we have the ability to stand up for them. For the students suffering from depression, we have the ability to give them a smile or say a kind word to encourage them. For the students that have to face a storm beyond our classroom every day, we can shelter them in a safe environment, even if it’s just for an hour a day. Life is Strange’s latest episode reminded me of one of the reasons I became a teacher in the first place: to encourage the Max Caulfields, help the Chloe Prices, and protect the Kate Marshes. Every teacher should play Life is Strange as a reminder that every interaction we have with our students can not only help or hurt, but one interaction could mean the difference between a student feeling isolated or knowing someone cares about them.
Similarly, students would benefit from playing the game as it shows how the smallest decisions can have the biggest of impacts, a lesson that could fit into any English or Social Studies classroom or into any lesson on bullying, depression, sexual assault, or the bystander effect. With the language and more mature themes, it is still a game to play with older students and only if you believe it works within your school. (I am still rooting for a version with the curse words changed or beeped out, so it would be more appropriate for a classroom!) Be sure to play through the game yourself first and make the best decision for you and your students.
Life is Strange continues breaking hearts and taking names as the once-easy decisions have morphed into life or death situations that leave the player dreading the consequences and doing their best to choose the lesser of two evils. After seeing Kate Marsh’s story play to its climax, I am beyond curious to see how the next three episodes play out, and I am certain they will be episodes that teachers and upper high school students alike should not miss.
Educational Rating: 6/8
(Classroom Friendly, Motivation, Concrete Learning, Additional Skills, Feedback, Difficulty, Accessibility, Extension)
Overall Rating: 7/8
(Immersion, Environment, Storyline, Replayability, Entertainment, Gameplay, Originality, User Control)