(PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox) One of my favorite things about LIFE IS STRANGE is its episodic fragmentation because it allows me to detail specific things I love about the series without having to write everything into one long post.

So, yes, I’m totally using the remastered version — which includes the first game and BEFORE THE STORM — to summarize everything I wasn’t able to shoehorn in before about the first game. (There will be one last post about the BEFORE THE STORE remaster!)

[Slight spoilers below!]

The fourth episode of the initial game is absolutely brutal, but also very memorable. Max’s time use inadvertently affecting her best friend is heart-rending, and the two of them reconnecting — a second time — is extremely emotional in a way that I’ve never felt in another game.

At the end, well, I’ve witnessed others going through what Max is tasked to do, and — the way I played it — goddamn, in real life I was just an observer, there for comfort, but holy hell. My face gets wet just thinking about it.

I’ve said it before: this is just life. Life is hard. Nothing and no one can prepare you for what you’re going to live through, because everyone’s journey is different. But if you can find folks that can help navigate you through, you’re very lucky, and that’s why the fourth episode is so tough for me, because of the loss, and because of the changes.

While I absolutely love this series — it’s certainly one of my all-time favorites — this remaster? It kinda sucks. Visually, sure, it’s slightly glossier — oddly, Rachel seems to have the best glow-up — but doesn’t add much except for major loading times and overly severe and distracting lighting. (I’ll note that I played it via Switch — loading times may be faster via your Xbox.) While the original was slightly janky, this feels terribly unpolished and I encountered a number of bugs and crashes, which is weird for a remaster. Frankly, I’m pleased I played the original digital copies when initially writing about this series, because that felt more natural and playable. It certainly doesn’t look as crisp or play as well as TRUE COLORS.

Nonetheless, I was very happy to see Chloe and Max together again, although watching Chloe and knowing what will happen made me constantly well-up. I kept thinking: “This isn’t fair. I just want the best for them!” Granted, that’s the sort of emotional response any writer wants to hear when they pen something, but goddamnit, as someone playing the game, it’s rough. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I did try to lighten her load.

I hope I’ve convinced you to at least try the series, no matter which way you can. It’s absolutely something special and evocative and overly emotional and I love it. This is a series of games that will most certainly inspire and influence future game designers and developers, and it’s extremely rare to know that upon initially playing a game. It’s so raw and heartfelt and, as I’ve said before, it’s hard to believe it even exists. It was a huge swing on behalf of Don’t Nod and they knocked it out of the park, and it’s something that will live with me always.

GRIS (2019) [REDUX]

I feel like I did this game dirty in my initial write-up, so I wanted to revisit it. Granted, I extolled the game in my first write-up, but neglected to mention my favorite part of the game: the sound design. It’s so goddamn aurally tactile in a way that is utterly delightful. I repeatedly rewatch the trailer, just to hear her leap and splash. It’s amazing, and I feel like a shitheel for not boosting that facet originally. I’ve previously stated that I’m stupidly physical — I’m the kinda person who will launch himself onto curbs just to feel oft-kilter — and this is a game that wants to feel felt and I love that about it, and can’t help but embrace it.

It’s an astounding, remarkable achievement, and one well-worth playing.


Let me be upfront about GOTHAM KNIGHTS: this is not a great game. The primary issue isn’t its lackluster visual design of the major characters, which some have generously stated as looking like a generic mobile free-to-play game. Nor is it due to Gotham feeling oddly empty for a metropolis. (That said, given the fact that Gotham seems to be a villain paradise, why would one choose to live there as a civilian?) It’s simply that the game is trying to do too much, and manages to falter at almost every step. I feel for the devs because this is very clearly an extremely expensive game that took a lot of time and effort and money to make, but it never quite manages the effortless flow of the Rocksteady Batman games.

It doesn’t help that the game commits multiple cardinal sins such as bullet-sponges, bosses with fake-out health meters, cheap insta-deaths, and is brazen enough to recreate a spiritual successor level to one of the worst Batman levels of all time: the Batmobile levels of BATMAN RETURNS. (Ironically, this is definitely one of the most enjoyable Batmobiles of any Batman game I’ve played, but the one Batmobile level goes on for way too long.)

To be reductive, GOTHAM KNIGHTS feels like it’s cribbing from the recent ASSASSIN’S CREED games: it features a new leveling system, including superficial crafting of armor and weapons, on top of what was already a byzantine litany of combos and combat approaches. Every minute you get some new alert or notification or useless mod or unlockable. It’s not just that it’s overwhelming, but that very little of it actually matters.

Additionally, goddamn, some of the boss fights are the roughest — and I played the game on easy mode because life is too short. I hard-quit during both the Mr. Freeze and Clayface fights, and the end of the game — while abiding by the rule of threes — felt like a tad too much.

However! It is a very playable game with a gripping gameplay loop. I went solo as Batgirl and genuinely glowed during the Harley Quinn fight, mostly because of the brilliant cover of Ricky Martin’s -Livin’ La Vida Loca- by NOBRO, and I am not alone:

That is an absolutely perfectly commissioned needle-drop. I’ll also note: the Harley Quinn here? Not my favorite Harley, but I still found her to be intriguing!

I’d also like to note that, unlike many other games, GOTHAM KNIGHTS has a bunch of women goons of all shapes and sizes, and I can’t help but appreciate that because — usually — it’s all dudes.

I bought GOTHAM KNIGHTS despite having read the lukewarm reviews because I was in a mood where I just wanted something I could zone out to and mindlessly mission back-and-forth to and it delivered, as so many middlingly-reviewed games are prone to do. It’s not perfect, but it does have moments of brilliance, and in-between it’ll rarely frustrate you which, frankly, is all I need from a game, and hell, I may just replay it with the alternate characters! (I’ve read that Nightwing is especially delightful to play as.)

GRIS (2019)

(PC/Xbox/PS4/PS5) GRIS is an atmospheric platformer that is also emotionally devastating.

As many kids, I was an absolute space nerd; still am, to be honest. One of my favorite memories as a youth was reluctantly seeing Halley’s Comet — the cosmos is scary, y’all! — then getting donuts at Dunkin Donuts. I still have the sketch of the comet that my father asked me to draw on a napkin afterwards and it’s one of my treasured objects.

This game? It will fucking wreck you. If you aren’t crying by the end, you aren’t human.

It helps that the gameplay is so damn fluid, the character design so dynamic, the visual style evoking Mœbius, the audio design so spacious, and the animation is astounding. I do not want to replay it it, but …re-watching these trailers definitely tempted me. This is one of the most brilliantly realized games I’ve played in some time, but geez, also so tough to deal with.

If you aren’t a gamer, jump ahead to the ending, linked below, because it will decimate you:


The LIFE IS STRANGE games have been incredibly difficult for me to deal with, much less write about. They’re literally manufactured to trigger grief and sadness and re-invoke lived trauma and, while I know the developers meant well, it’s still brutal to confront matters.

I’ve always hated the ascribed name: ‘LIFE IS STRANGE’ because life isn’t strange at all and I feel like the game doesn’t even believe it as it has never invoked that phrase. This is just life. This is just living. Abuse and neglect and abandonment have been normalized, have been for a long time and fundamentally that’s what these games are about, as well as the coping mechanisms surrounding them. We tell ourselves it’s strange to justify the calamity of our lives, of exploitation, of unfairness and inequality, when it doesn’t need to be like this.

It is life. While I may be strange, this is not strange.

However: while these games do make me sob, they help me. There aren’t many games that are intentionally meant as therapeutic means but these are games about people feeling too hard, hurt by life and circumstance, but also about finding ways to mend and reach out. I’m shocked they even exist — because how do you even pitch that? — much less have become an actual franchise. As someone who has lived through a bit too much shit, I’m happy to see a game that portrays working through shit, and portrays people surviving it.

I love reading the YouTube comments for these games — well, 75% of the commenters, the other 25% can go fuck themselves — because they are all beaming and realizing that video games can help and heal in their own way. These games have made me feel like I’m not alone, just like those comments have made me feel like I’m not alone, and just like how I’m writing this: you are not alone.

I can’t wait for the next one.


Hey, remember Steph? No? It took me a little while to remember her as well.

I didn’t mention her in my initial write-up of LIFE IS STRANGE since she’s a very ancillary character. Hell, I didn’t even think of her being a callback character while I was playing TRUE COLORS and I was actively trying to romance her.

So much of the LIFE IS STRANGE series is about pretend and role-playing and escapism due to the trauma of reality, so it makes sense that they’d have a character who was fascinated with all of that, even if they existed on the out-skirts, and this bonus episode is all about that!

If you aren’t familiar with Steph, she’s a very queer Dungeons & Dragons role-player who will lead you through a game she penned. That’s it, that’s her only role in the first game. She usually plays with her best friend Alex, but is always eager to share with others.

One of my favorite things about LIFE IS STRANGE is that it’s absolutely gender neutral. Everyone loves what they love, and when you see the spark in their eyes when they’re conveying why they love it, you want to love it too. That’s the best thing a game can do; to transmit their love for gameplay and their audience.

However, there’s always a downside: one of the very stupid things I have said to my therapist is: “Danger always finds me,” because it has. So I couldn’t help but wince when Alex tells Steph “Adventure will always find you.” because I’m like “There’s a terrible side to that! And these games are completely all about that! That is not a comforting thought!”

But I digress. This is a perfect coda to the Arcadia Bay games, and it’s particularly poignant. LIFE IS STRANGE has always been exceptional with their scores and soundtracks — they’re brilliantly evocative and melancholy — and to shape one entire episode around serving up music is inspired, as WAVELENGTHS sees Steph as a local DJ, living her best life, but also realizing that it’s a transitional one.

We follow her through four seasons of a year, solely through her work and we watch her become more comfortable with her job. It also dovetails with the empathic emotions of TRUE COLORS as people reach out to her over-the-phone and she learns how to placate them.

It’s a fantastic little slice of life, one that more game developers should learn from.

“I am not alone in the universe!”



This post contains mentions of familial death.

While I said that LIFE IS STRANGE: BEFORE THE STORM is my favorite of the series I, somewhat intentionally, neglected to mention that LIFE IS STRANGE: TRUE COLORS (TRUE COLORS from here on forward) is the one I identify with most.

TRUE COLORS centers around Alex, a twenty-something who reunites with Gabe, her big brother, in the fictional town of Haven Springs, Oregon. Their mother died of cancer when they were teens, their father abandoned them shortly after, then her brother was locked up in juvie for carjacking, and Alex was scuttled from foster home to home, essentially until now.

(I’ll note that there’s a spoiler below, but it literally happens in the first chapter and it is a major part of Alex’s journey, and really not spoiler-y! But go forth, play it, then come back if you’re squeamish!)

Of course, LIFE IS STRANGE being LIFE IS STRANGE, her brother is killed under specious conditions.

Also, LIFE IS STRANGE being LIFE IS STRANGE, it’s revealed that Alex has superpowers: she’s an full-blown empath who can literally see how people are feeling, hurting, and intense emotions cause her to lash out.

All my life I’ve been called out as someone overly sensitive, someone overly emotional, someone too observant, and when I am emotionally overwhelmed, I too explode.

So, yeah. This hits a bit too close to home for me. When I described the game to my wife, she explicitly asked: “Are you sure you should be playing this?” and I replied “No! I definitely should not!” but proceeded to do so anyway, and proceeded to cry through the bulk of the first third of the game, and I’m a better person for doing so. For as much as the game underscores the trials and tribulations of being emotionally oversensitive, it also extolls them. Alex is not only finding the truth out about the death of her brother, but finding what she wants out of life.

It also serves as one of the best renditions of a rural town’s Main Street I’ve ever played. I’ve previously harped on how the LIFE IS STRANGE series mirrors my time growing up in Vermont and TRUE COLORS is the absolute pinnacle of that. Haven feels like I’m wandering through Church Street — downtown Burlington, Vermont — even down to the indie record store. (Shout out to Pure Pop!) The only thing missing are the gravy fries from Nectar’s.

(I’ll also note that TRUE COLORS features the following exchange: “Greatest Northwest band of all time? Go.” “Sleater-Kinney, if you were wondering.” and Sleater-Kinney is only one of my favorite bands ever, so thanks game for validating that you are solely for me.)

I’d be remiss to neglect to mention the glow-up imparted on TRUE COLORS. While the prior LIFE IS STRANGE games had striking visual character designs, TRUE COLORS is absolutely gorgeous, all rounded features, glossy and fluid animations, and even better: it imparts a sense of tactility that was lacking in the prior games. It’s not just that characters touch each other, it’s that they rub and wear and scrape against works around them. This is a world well-crafted.



This post contains mentions of familial death and psychological dissociation.

The LIFE IS STRANGE games are not what I would call a ‘fun time’ — practically every post I’ve made about the series has content warnings — but LIFE IS STRANGE 2 is especially tough. It opens with a mostly idyllic Hispanic family: two sons, one pre-teen — Daniel — one firmly a teenager — Sean — and a father. Their mother is mostly unknown to them, but the three of them have a happy life.

At least, until Daniel makes the mistake of playing zombie in their front yard.

Matters escalate. Police get involved. Their father is shot by a policeman. Daniel reacts impulsively, self-protectively, and sends out a kinetic blast, killing the policeman.

Sean grabs Daniel and they go on the run, leaving behind his teen love because he knows there’s no better option.

It may sound twisted, but my favorite part of LIFE IS STRANGE 2 simply consists of Sean and Daniel endlessly walking through the Pacific Northwest, solely because — despite the fact that I’ve never been to the Pacific Northwest — it feels like I lived part of this game. As I’ve mentioned in prior LIFE IS STRANGE posts: New England is not the Pacific Northwest. (Duh.) However, they’re basically kissing cousins. Very similar landscapes and remote culture. Tall trees, lush and vibrant greenery, and folks existing peacefully on the fringes of society.

There have been times in my life where I’ve been stranded, when I had no money and I had no one I felt I could confide in (although, truth be told, I did and probably should have) and so … I’d just walk hours on end, sometimes even overnight, through New England roads which are sparsely populated but the trees …make you feel protected. Insulated. Even though the woods also are home to predators, it felt …natural.

LIFE IS STRANGE 2 is a game centered around desertion and opt-ing out of society, because sometimes, that is absolutely necessary. As you venture through the game, you meet up with folks who are off-the-grid, including one face you might not expect from LIFE IS STRANGE 1. Whereas the prior games were all born of suburban trauma and feeling penned in, LIFE IS STRANGE 2 is a wild road trip adventure.

I’ll note that LIFE IS STRANGE 2 also features a small moment regarding an older journalist — a transient, basically — who helps them out in a time of need, and that’s it, and he drives off. Again, it’s small, but it makes an impact.

It sketches out how the world is different for so many people, and that there are so many different ways to live in it, which is essentially what LIFE IS STRANGE 2 is about.

“It feels like we’re walking nowhere.”



This post contains mentions of familial death.

LIFE IS STRANGE 2: THE AWESOME ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN SPIRIT (forward known as CAPTAIN SPIRIT) is a bit of an anomaly in the LIFE IS STRANGE series in that it’s centered around a very young boy but also: it was a free ‘demo’ for LIFE IS STRANGE 2 released prior to the game, and is only barely tangentially related to LIFE IS STRANGE 2.

Those caveats aside, CAPTAIN SPIRIT is still very much a LIFE IS STRANGE game: it is absolutely fixated on trauma and loss, escapism and the hope of overcoming what hell you’re living in, even if it means believing in superpowers.

In this case, it’s about yet another Pacific Northwestern person, a young boy named Chris Eriksen. He’s fashioned an alter-ego known as CAPTAIN SPIRIT in the days since his mother died in a car accident; an accident that his alcoholic father he lives with still blames him for.

(Obviously, this is the flip-side of the coin of LIFE IS STRANGE 1 and Chloe’s father’s death.)

It’s a very slight, but sensitive portrayal of a youth who isn’t quite cognizant of the turmoil around him, nor the turmoil he’ll have to work out in therapy in the future, but I found it to be a very sweet and heartfelt story, even though there’s very little gameplay.

It’s worth noting that there are a few iffy bugs with it and LIFE IS STRANGE 2 that can cause issues. I had to delete and re-install both in order to deal with ‘em.



This game contains details of familial death. To prevent spoilers, I side-step mentioning those details.

If you’ve been following along with the prior posts: LIFE IS STRANGE: FAREWELL (FAREWELL, going forward) is a very short prequel to LIFE IS STRANGE: BEFORE THE STORM (BEFORE THE STORM, going forward), which is the prequel to LIFE IS STRANGE.

In other words: you get to see Max and Chloe as very early youths, just as Max is about to leave for Seattle and just when Chloe’s life turns to shit.

BEFORE THE STORM was far smaller-scale than LIFE IS STRANGE, and FAREWELL is even more intimate. It details one of Max’s last days with Chloe before she moves to Seattle. She hasn’t told Chloe yet — she’s afraid of ruining the mood and just wants to hang out with her best friend and riff on the good times; all of their pirate games and treasure maps and blowing up shit and languid lounging sleepy days, hanging around Chloe’s room, occasionally popping out for a stack of her mother’s pancakes.

One of the most remarkable features of LIFE IS STRANGE is its indulgence in reminiscing and introspection. Each and every installment features a number of places to sit or lay down on and mull over feelings and revel in memories. For the majority of FAREWELL, it’s Max laying alongside Chloe on her bed as they idly listen to music, the breeze flowing through the windows, as she recounts her feelings about her best friend to herself. The camera cuts to specific areas of Chloe’s room, occasionally glimsping the outside, even after Max has completed her inner monologue.

It’s techniques such as that which makes LIFE IS STRANGE a game instead of an interactive novel. You can exit out of these vignettes at any point in time. Hell, you don’t even need to enact them. However, when you do it enriches the characters and the world that they inhabit.

FAREWELL is quietly brutal, with a gut-punch of an ending but, for a short period of time, you get to live in the idyllic world of their youth and see them simply having fun and enjoying life. As I’ve grown older, I’ve found myself opting out of works that unnecessarily put their characters through unrelenting traumatic circumstances and, while LIFE IS STRANGE most certainly does that — I realize it’s basic narrative necessity — it also finds time and space to give them joyful experiences, and I will miss them.

“Even when we’re apart, we’re still Max and Chloe.”