Life is Strange: True Colors Review (PS5)
Game title: Life is Strange: True Colors
Game description: A bold new era of the award-winning Life is Strange begins, with an all-new playable lead character and a thrilling mystery to solve! Alex Chen has long suppressed her 'curse': the supernatural ability to experience, absorb and manipulate the strong emotions of others, which she sees as blazing, colored auras. When her brother dies in a so-called accident, Alex must embrace her volatile power to find the truth – and uncover the dark secrets buried by a small town.
Life is Strange: True Colors is the story of Alex Chen, a twenty-two year old girl who has just moved to the small Colorado town of Haven Springs. Alex can see other people’s emotions as an aura of colour around them, and also is able to get a view into their thoughts by focusing. You meet Alex as she arrives in Haven Springs to see her brother Gabe for the first time in 8 years after being separated by the foster system. Alex has been living in group homes and with foster families and hasn’t had the best time of it due to her empathic abilities. If Alex is too close to somebody experiencing a powerful emotion she takes it on too, and unfortunately powerful emotions like anger and depression are commonplace in the foster system. She arrives in Haven Springs nervous but excited to start her new life, before tragedy strikes and kicks off the rest of the story.
Alex is a really likeable protagonist, the best so far in the Life is Strange series, and is surrounded by similarly likeable characters. Her brother, Gabe, makes for a strong presence in the game, as well as Alex’s best friends, Steph and Ryan. One of the most important characters in the game though is the town of Haven Springs, which feels like maybe the most “real” place I have ever seen in a video game. Haven is a small town of only a single street (that you can access), but it has so much personality. When I finished the game I wanted to move to Haven Springs.
I’ll keep the discussion of the story and the specifics of the characters and the town short as I think they are the best aspects of the game, but that doesn’t mean the gameplay is a weakness. The way you play the game is a lot like how you played the previous Life is Strange games, though with a bit more freedom and openness in the way you move through the world. In the previous games in the series you were moved from scene to scene as the game’s story dictated, you would go to a location and then once you had done the objective in that location you often moved on and never returned. In True Colors you have access to the open world of the town for pretty much the whole game, you can leave an event and see how other characters who aren’t involved are doing. There’s a section of the game where you attend a big town festival, but if you want you can leave the festival to go see a friend who’s leaving town or spend some time with somebody who is having a tough time. It’s an excellent change that I think really works.
The majority of your time in the game will be spent in conversation or exploring the town and nearby mountains. When Alex focuses in on an emotion she is transported to how the subject sees the world through the lens of that emotion. For example, if the subject is feeling fear, items in the world will transform to be darker and scarier. Alex will then investigate highlighted objects of emotion in the world and try to help the person to calm that negative emotion. At a few story points she has the option of removing a single emotion from a person completely, and you get to see that this isn’t always a good thing – which I was really impressed by.
The choices in True Colors are often difficult, with some that I sat with for several minutes before making a decision. Your mileage may vary, but I found myself very invested in the town and people of Haven Springs and Alex’s journey in particular.
True Colors is gorgeous. The stylised realism of the characters allows them to express a lot of emotion in their faces without being too cartoony or over the top and the world itself is gorgeous. I played on PS5 and I took more than 50 screenshots because I was constantly stunned by the visuals in the game. Developers Deck Nine have done a fantastic job here, especially with protagonist Alex Chen. She’s so expressive without being over the top and is animated really well. Alex’s hair in particular moves in a really lifelike manner and was genuinely impressive.
True Colors is really Alex’s story in a way that I haven’t felt in previous instalments. A big part of that story is Alex’s love of music, which permeates the whole game. Alex and Gabe bond over their shared love of Kings of Leon, Steph works at the local record shop and radio station and many of the events in the game revolve around music. During the game you will often have the opportunity to sit and consider recent events in the game, there will be some narration from Alex over music, but when the narration finishes you are able to continue to sit and enjoy the song while a montage of scenery around you will cycle. Every single one of these I found I sat for the entire song, and I found these moments to be very effective and emotional.
One quick note – the game offers the option to not play licensed music if you’re streaming the game. I would highly recommend against that. If you’re a streamer I think you should play this game on your own time, or mute the capture for your stream rather than use this option. The music is so integral to this game, I think it would really lose something without it.
I loved Life is Strange: True Colors and it’s my favourite game I’ve played this year. I got very emotionally invested in Alex’s story and the town of Haven Springs. If you’ve enjoyed a Life is Strange game in the past I think you’ll really like this one, the more open structure and ability to move around the town as you wish lets you really make your home in the town and make the story your own. It’s been several days and I am still thinking about Alex and my time with the game, and I don’t think that will stop for a while. Reviewing the screenshots I took for this review honestly got me a little misty eyed. I’m hopeful that we will see more of Alex and friends in a future game or DLC, but if not then I cannot wait to see what Deck Nine does next.
Sam's Score - 9/10
- Engaging story
- Great characters
- Visually impressive
- Streamer mode a bit lifeless