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Spoilers for Life is Strange, episode 4

Butch:

Well then.

Found Nathan’s bunker, found Rachel’s body (It was there all along? Dude….) now I’m waiting in line at the vortex club, so we have a lot to talk about.

We could talk about how I’m pretty certain I’ve figured out what the twist is gonna be at the end of the episode, but that would be daring you to spoil.

So, two thoughts.

Interesting how, once you get to the barn, photos get clear. I mean, the ones Max looks at. Until now, when she looks at pictures, good, bad, in the newspaper, whatever, they’ve been blurry, drawn things. Now, not just the upsetting pictures of Kate and Rachel, but the picture of the barn, the picture of Prescott in the bard, etc., look like photos. More so, anyway. They didn’t NEED to do that. They could have kept things blurry and had Max explain, like they have been doing. Seems a conscious choice. Wonder why.

Second, remember how I compared things to Lost after episode 3? Well, seasons 4 and 5 of lost (it had six seasons) spent a whole mess of time getting away from character development (that they did oh so very well in seasons 1-3) and got bogged down in PLOT man, getting story TOLD.

And, while there are some cool things here, and the story is good, we’re doing the same, aren’t we?

I mean, this episode, after the hook of the alternate reality, is really about uncovering facts that are crucial to plot. LONG cutscenes. LOOOOOOONG cutscenes. And puzzles. Not BAD puzzles, per se, but puzzles that have abandoned the core mechanic of the game. The whole time you’re sleuthing, all your rewind is for is resetting the tries when you lock the phone. That’s not much of a power. Nathan Drake had a reset power, too; it was just a 400 year old lever. From the time the sleuthing starts, to where I am now, you needed your power exactly once: to get the motor back up to the platform to open the trap door. (I had not used it in so long it took forever to occur to me). In the bunker? Not once. Not. Once. And I haven’t had a butterfly choice at all since the whole Frank thing. Not one.

Now, I get it can’t go on like it did. We get butterflies every five minutes all throughout it’ll never resolve. Eventually, you have to start tying up loose ends. But man, the second half of this episode it’s like the game said “Ok, put down your controller and let me talk a while….talk talk talk…wasn’t that COOL?????” And I sorta feel like “Uh…yeah….cool and stuff….but that wasn’t what I was really enjoying about this……”

Feminina:

Dude, I never got to the Vortex Club!

Not because of choices: because my game glitched. We found Rachel’s body and then it was all “error message, please report this to the server admin” or whatever, and it wouldn’t go any further. I tried all kinds of restarting, removing and replacing the disc, etc., but I never did get it to play past that point. (I didn’t try starting all over from the beginning of the episode, which possibly would have worked.)

To this day I don’t know exactly what happens at the end of episode four, although I got some ‘previously on’ info at the beginning of 5 that allowed me to at least carry on with the story (so, yay for the previouslies).

Oh, never mind, I looked it up on the internet because I realized it was ridiculous not to have any idea after all this time, so now I do know.

And here, perhaps, is a difference that arises from not playing them all one right after the other, vs. doing so. I got to the glitch, was annoyed but figured it had to be near the end of the episode and I must have gotten MOST of the story, and I went on to other things.

By the time episode 5 came out, I’d half forgotten about the glitch, which at any rate didn’t seem all that urgent anymore because of the lengthy pause since I’d last played, so I just started up 5 and didn’t really worry about it. Kind of the way one might do if one missed part of an episode of a TV show (that for some reason was not available to rewatch): just move on to the next and fill in the gaps as best you can.

Whereas you, if your game were to glitch immediately after finding Rachel’s body, would be highly motivated to figure out exactly what happened before you move on, because you know that you’re moving on right away and the gap in information does not correspond to a gap in time that will lower the urgency on the need to have the details filled in.

Another difference, thinking of your comments about feeling like everything turned into the game talking to you, might be that for me, coming to each episode after a several-week break, I don’t think the contrast was that apparent. I don’t remember particularly noticing that episode 4 was more expository, probably because I didn’t have that immediate recollection of all the more active, time-rewind-heavy stuff I’d done before. I mean, I remembered the previous episode, of course, but it wasn’t that sense of “three days ago I was doing all THIS, and now I’m only doing THAT.”

Taking a break in between allows each episode to stand alone more definitively, perhaps, without as many comparisons with the mechanics of previous episodes.

Butch:

Well, right now, Chloe has a gun, she’s pissed, Warren’s drunk, and, oh yeah, there’s two damn moons in the sky. Ominous shit.

But here’s my call: Veronica isn’t the next victim, Max is. Why? Because it would be a good cliffhanger (Max is getting dosed, winds up in the white room, etc.), and she sarcastically criticized David for taking pictures of her (“Oh I’m a suspect? Nice detective work…”). If you are ever a main character, NEVER sarcastically say a disliked character is a doofus, for you will, often tragically, find out he is NOT a doofus and YOU are the doofus. It’s like not going in the attic. People who call others doofuses get their comeuppance.

But the scariest part of all this is the potential for a GAME BREAKING GLITCH!!! JESUS! NOTHING is scarier than that! Fuck!

I’ve passed the danger point, right? Cuz I found Rachel’s body (which was well done. Upsetting, even though it wasn’t a surprise. Putting it in their hideout was pretty effective) and now I’m in line, so I’m ok? Right? RIGHT?

Good point about viewing the episodes as more stand-alone pieces. Especially if you played something else. I mean, you go play another game, then come back to this, it’s supposed to feel different, as it is not the Witcher or Uncharted or whatever the hell we were playing. But when you were playing it last week….

And it’s subtle. It’s not THAT much different. I mean, it isn’t jumping and shooting or whatever. It’s still Life is Strange, but it’s different enough that you notice if you have something fresh in your head to compare it to.

Feminina:

I think you’re probably good in terms of avoiding the glitch. I never made it past “OMG, body!” [insert record scratching sound for effect, although actually the glitch was silent].

If you’re in line for the club, you’re already past that point. You’re probably fine.

Pictures and picture clarity…I wonder if it’s a kind of “as Max learns more, the picture becomes literally clearer” kind of thing? That’s super unsubtle, but as we’ve discussed, this game has its unsubtle moments.

Or, somewhat more subtly, perhaps it’s about the development of her powers, as photographs become time travel devices. Remember we had to carefully focus on the picture of Chloe and William and Max for her to go back to that moment…maybe that action kickstarted Max’s ability to use photos to access alternative realities, and she/we now sees all photos differently (more clearly) as a result.

Butch:

I am good! Cuz I finished. Hooray, preschool and playing during the day!

Ok, so I was mostly right. Cliffhanger, don’t call people doofuses, etc. Proud of myself. And as SOON as….oh, wait. You didn’t play this bit….I’ll back up.

So the party is pretty much a party. It’s nowhere NEAR as opulent as you’d think. It’s pretty much a stupid teenage party. Even the vortex club’s “VIP” room is pretty lame. (They did, however, not scrimp on the strobe lights and holy SHIT am I glad I played this one during the day when it’s nice and bright in here or that would’ve been a game breaking glitch, in practice. DAMN.)

It was nice to see Daniel and Brooke there having fun. I told him to go. You didn’t.

Ok, so there was a big choice: warn Victoria or not. I did, and she believed me. You seem to have gotten that by default, according to the stats. You could also not warn, or warn and have her not believe you.

But then Jefferson showed up to announce the winner and I knew he was the bad guy.

And I SHOULD have seen that something potentially fatal would happen to Chloe. Man, do NOT be Chloe in the final scene of these episodes. First paralyzed, now dead. Sheesh. Kinda cheap that they used that “Something really awful happens to Chloe” as a cliffhanger in back to back episodes, but, as you say, for you that was three months apart, so more forgivable. Me, I’m like, “again?”

In retrospect, we should have known cuz he was the one dude there at the end of two we didn’t blame or thought to blame. Which means he’s the guy. OR the one you CAN’T blame who’s there. I had this amazingly fleeting hope that the big bad guy would be Principal Wells. After all, you find a bottle of whiskey in the bunker that matches his. That would have been so awesome….

Wait….he still could be…..don’t spoil.

So all good. Getting a little cliche, but hey. What can you do?

And I should be done soon and RotTR will still be pretty warm off the presses.

Feminina:

Woohoo, preschool!

Good for me for default-warning Victoria, I guess. I would have…she wasn’t very nice to me, it’s not as if I’d want to condemn her to death.

This whole game is about saving Chloe. Or failing to save Chloe, as the case may be. I guess the two-cliffhangers-in-a-row thing could seem a bit much, seeing it close together like that. As you say, I had some time in between, plus due to the glitch I didn’t actually know Chloe had been shot until I heard about it in episode 5, so the impact was significantly lessened.

And then I was right in the middle of stuff and thought “Mr. Jefferson? OK, yeah, that makes sense I guess, he was being a bit creepy there,” but there wasn’t a lot of time for reflection, so I just went with it.

In retrospect, I bet it would have made more sense if I’d been able to finish episode four, but such is life.

Butch:

Yeah. Though now I’m all worried Victoria will sic the cops on Nathan and not Mr. Jefferson.

And yeah, this is two weeks in a row of Chloe-shock ending. Which sort of deadened the impact. The reveal in 3 was SO good, and this just…was more “Oh, yeah, ok, that’ll happen.” Which, again, probably wasn’t that way if you had had a break.

Interesting that it IS about saving Chloe, so I’ll give this game one trope turned around (they’re not that good with turning around tropes). The STRONG woman keeps getting killed/paralyzed etc. Max is the meapy little follower (or IS she?) and the “damsel in distress” is the cool one she idolizes. Who idolizes the damsel in distress?

As for the ending, well, there wasn’t much there to reflect. I mean, the party ends right after you warn Victoria, Chloe gets a text that appears to be from Nathan saying he’s going to destroy the evidence about Rachel, you rush to Rachel’s grave, Max gets injected, she gets all woozy, someone shoots Chloe, and Jefferson does that “Step into the light and give a deadpan gaze cuz this is a BIG REVEAL” thing that things do because cliffhanger and boom. Credits.

The after credit scene is a rather ominous one of a dude with rubber gloves filling a syringe while a voice that may be Max, maybe not is going “you don’t have to do this.” Creepy.

Feminina:

Things do get pretty creepy in the next episode. Creepy, and weird. Life gets stranger and stranger, basically.

Which I suppose is only to be expected from a narrative standpoint. Increasing the tension, increasing the stakes, increasing the impact of the weird powers, etc. Everything comes to a head.

Oh, and I kind of like the fact that the much-vaunted Vortex Club party turns out to be just a standard, awkward teenage party. (With strobe lights! Because strobe lights are AMAZING!) That’s kind of awesome. And realistic!

Butch:

It sure looks strange. Hope we don’t get too much narrative dissonance.

The party was totally a bunch of dumb kids drinking and being lame. You even look at the food and go “crackers and chips? That’s it? In the vip room?”

Which was kinda awesome.

Feminina:

It is pretty awesome. Because that’s what parties are (often) like: wildly hyped, and ultimately disappointing.

The Vortext Club is coasting on their reputations as the “cool kids” but have no actual idea how to throw a cool party. A nice contrast to the movies, when high school parties are amazingly well-organized, efficiently catered, and action-packed.

I mean, this is one tiny school in one tiny town in Oregon: what did we really expect? But we (presumably like Max) were all set for it to be an amazing scene of some kind.

But it also reminds us that just because it’s not some cinematic dark, smoke-filled underground club doesn’t mean people can’t get drugged and molested there. It’s kind of dull, but that doesn’t mean it’s harmless.

Butch:

Yeah. The VIP room was just on the other side of a curtain. It was in the pool, that you swam in with Chloe, which was ALSO a cool contrast because that was such a fun, important, grown up moment and this…wasn’t.

There is certainly a bit of a “Field of Dreams” vibe (a movie in which a man builds a baseball diamond in his corn field, only to have the ghosts of dead, famous ballplayers appear). There’s a line in that movie where Shoeless Joe Jackson (real old player) asks “Is this heaven?” and Kevin Costner (in his best role) replies “no…this is Iowa..” and no one believes anything that magical could happen there.

Same thing. Worlds end in space. The capital of kingdoms. The final battle in Mass Effect was in London. Aliens always seem to land in New York.

Not in Oregon.

And, in a twist, technically no one did get drugged at the party. The party was a complete anti-climax. The drugging happened in the woods, at the junk yard. Indeed, you spend the party searching for Nathan, and he never even shows up. All that hype….for not much of anything.

Ooo! I forgot another detail you didn’t get to see:

After Chloe is shot, and before the BIG REVEAL, you see a wide angle of the scene over the shoulder of, and through, the transparent doe. Weird.

Feminina:

That is weird.

The transparent doe is behind it all!!!!

With the help of Samuel, who we know communicates with animals and everything.

Butch:

It was quite the image. That doe, man…..

Max was wearing a shirt with a deer in episode one….

Feminina:

Maybe her connection with the deer is what gives her the power. She’s unwittingly doing the doe’s bidding this whole time!

Although what would motivate a deer to solve the disappearance of a human, I don’t know. Still, some things can remain unsaid. The doe, like God, works in mysterious ways, and it’s not for us to know Her ultimate plan.

One thing we can guess is that it will involve the good of deerkind rather than humankind, but that’s what you get for following a Deer God.

“Deer God,

Thanks for the sweet time-powers! I’ll be happy to destroy humanity for you by messing with the fabric of spacetime in pursuit of my own goals.

Love,
Max.”

OK, I think the usual Friday afternoon degeneration of conversation has officially hit.

Butch:

Damn that escalated quickly. Someone needs a weekend.

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