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Life is Strange – desktop adventure gets full mobile port

It’s a big adventure, but it feels just at home on iOS as it does on desktop

Price: $3/£3 (first episode, $9/£9 to unlock full game)
Version: 1.1.1
Size: 938 MB
Developer: Square Enix
Platform: iPhone and iPad

Life Is Strange is an episodic adventure game that first arrived on major consoles and desktops throughout 2015. In many ways, the approach was similar to some mobile adventure games – rather than releasing the whole game at once, the title’s five episodes were launched periodically throughout the year. It’s a nice way to play – each episode feels contained, and comes with its own cliffhanger or conclusion.

The game opens dramatically, with a huge storm threatening to destroy Max Caulfield’s home town in Oregon

But what about the plot? The game focuses on 18-year-old photography student Max Caulfield. An often shy, unassuming woman, players will find themselves instantly engaging with the character. In fact, the whole game drifts between the challenges of college, with the wider social implications, and universal sci-fi elements of the plot.

There’s also a major ‘butterfly effect’ theme to this game. It starts with Max near an old lighthouse amidst a storm, where she foresees the destruction of her town. Suddenly, she wakes up in class. Before long, you realize Max has developed the ability to rewind the most recent period of time. From here on out, you can make decisions on her quest to save the town, and her own friendships and relationships – but you can also unmake them, rewind time, and hope for a different outcome.

A lot of the game is set in Max’s college, where she studies photography

The games say each decision you make will impact the past, the present, and the future. And it really does. Decisions here feel impactful, which is something this genre often fails at. Max communicates through a range of different modern elements, but the themes and struggles remain timeless and universal and the game will appeal to a wide age range.

There’s a number of different gaming elements in this adventure, as Max tackles school, dormitories, bullies, supernatural abilities and internal struggles. Each is played out through various puzzles, fetch quests and conversations. The puzzles aren’t particularly difficult, but this game is at its best when it’s letting you make decisions in conversations.

In fact, one of the game’s biggest strengths is its dialog; it’s well written, funny in places, and deeply emotive in others. The voice acting is also top-notch, while the console-quality graphics have largely been retained for iOS. The soundtrack is beautiful, cutting in at opportune moments, at the end of episodes, and generally framing the story for high emotional impact.

There’s heavy use of dialog in the game – it’s one of its strongest features

The controls are also easy to use. On desktop you’d use the arrow keys and space bar to interact, but on iOS the game can be controlled simply by swiping and tapping the screen to move Max’s first-person view through the world – having tried both the desktop and iOS versions, we’d say the iOS controls are a pleasure to use.

In between tasks, there are a number of well-rendered cut-scenes which are highly cinematic and entertaining. However, it is worth addressing the scope and power-hungry approach of this game. It’s a real battery drain so keep a charger handy, and while the game looks phenomenal on newer devices reports from users have suggested some issues with crashing on iPhone 6s and lower.

If you make a decision you’re not happy with, you can rewind time

Overall, Square Enix has done a phenomenal job of porting this title and could well lead the way in a new wave of modern desktop gaming ports. Life is Strange proves it can be done, and done well. Be prepared to splash out for the whole game – you’ll have to pay a $9/£9 IAP to unlock all five chapters – but for the scope and depth of this game, we’d say it’s worth the investment.