Life is Strange: True Colors
Developer: Deck Nine Games
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: Xbox Series X | S and PlayStation 5 (Also available on PC and Nintendo Switch)
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 09/09/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
*This is a collaborative review between three people: Chloe, Joshua, and Chelsea. Chloe’s thoughts will be in black, Joshua’s in red and Chelsea’s in blue.*
Our Life is Strange Journey
I didn’t immediately play the initial Life is Strange upon its release. In fact, I think my first time playing it was when I first bought Xbox Game Pass. Having thoroughly enjoyed the Telltale Walking Dead series, I was curious to explore this narrative, choice-driven title. I fell in love with the story, focusing on the real side of humans while also adding the supernatural element of controlling time. The choice-making, while hectic, makes you feel in control and immersed. I couldn’t not love Chloe and Max either. Having played through Before The Storm, Captain Spirit and Life is Strange 2, loving them all as much as the last, my body was more than ready for another addition to the series.
I’ve always enjoyed choice-matter games, having played Minecraft: Story Mode growing up. When I came across the first Life is Strange in a bundle, I instantly enjoyed the more mature approach to decision-making and the weight of the consequences. Though I have played Before the Storm, I did not enjoy this prequel as much as the original as a large part of the series for me involves supernatural powers. I’m still yet to play Life is Strange 2 and Captain Spirit but the standalone nature of True Colours allowed me to try out the latest series entry on release.
I’ve been hooked on Life is Strange since its release and every LiS game since then has spoken to me on some level that no other game series has been able to do. I think it’s because it makes us question real-life scenarios (mostly). The majority of the problems you are faced with could happen in my life so I relate to the characters and to the story a hella lot – sorry, had to. When I saw the news of True Colors, I couldn’t wait to dive in.
Welcome to Haven Springs
True Colors sees us step into the shoes of Alex Chen; after being in foster care for 8 years she is reunited with her brother Gabe in Haven Springs, a quaint town in Colorado. Having to adjust to this new life is made harder as Alex has the power of psychic empathy. This is not only being able to read people’s auras, but more intense emotions will affect Alex to the point where she feels them too and has no way of stopping it. On the other hand, allowing another’s emotions to take over her will let her see the world from their eyes.
But in a small town where everyone knows everyone, it isn’t without its fair share of scandals. Alex must navigate a new world where emotions are rife, and secrets are uncovered that will affect not just her but the entire town.
Whilst I do believe the story had its fair share of enthralling moments, I longed for the narrative to dive slightly more into the supernatural. Though character progression is strong, I felt as if the story of True Colours first two chapters could easily be showcased with just one episode. However, once the narrative gets going by the end of the third chapter, it is propelled into motion and I found myself completing the final two chapters in a single sitting.
I personally found myself gripped by the story, and the first two chapters allowed me to fall in love with the characters though I do agree it was very slow. When Chapter 3 hit though I was enthralled, the LARP sequence being such a unique element to shake things up from the norm and where truths started to be revealed. I laughed, I cried, I developed a crush on characters… (Ryan for life, baby!) Like the strong emotions experienced in-game, this reflected into real life too. I never found myself bored and was eager to keep playing to find out the truth.
It’s Your Decision…
Perhaps the biggest difference with Life is Strange: True Colors is that it has completely thrown out the idea of episodes. Having to wait for the next episode to release on the previous games was almost torturous because they would often end on a major cliffhanger. True Colors is one game; no episodes, no waiting. Though it’s still set out in the same way. There are five chapters, all lasting roughly two hours each (depending on how you play them). It was incredibly refreshing to play through at my own pace – even if that pace was “don’t stop until it’s finished”.
In terms of gameplay, it’s the same Life is Strange that we all know and love. Big story sequence, followed by a little amount of exploring and finding specific objects and/or clues ending with some pretty tough decisions to make that will significantly alter the story. Trust me when I say that these decisions will quite often leave you waiting on the pause menu debating a decision.
The main aspect that really catches your eye and sets it apart from the previous titles is Alex’s ability to feel other people’s emotions and unlock specific memories linked to those emotions. It was really interesting to explore this and uncover more of the story that you perhaps wouldn’t have if you don’t look around for memories to explore.
Life is Beautiful
I played True Colors on my Xbox Series S, and the visuals looked absolutely stunning. The environment of Haven Springs was idyllic and made me want to step into the game just to live there. The lighting was fantastic and what particularly impressed me was the full-body motion capture. It has come a long way since the beginning of the series, and I felt the facial expressions and body movement made the characters seem real, hence immersing me even more and become attached to them.
The only issue I had performance-wise was occasionally when stepping into the world of another character by letting their emotion take hold, a transparent coloured block would flash on the right side of the screen. It didn’t happen enough to be unplayable, but it was an annoying break from the immersion. Hopefully, this can easily be fixed with a patch.
Unfortunately, I found performance to be the worst part of True Colours. Yes, the town of Haven Springs looks stunning with the beautiful use of colour and vivid landscapes; but the performance of True Colours suffers as an expense for this beauty. Even when playing on the PS5, the game struggled to maintain a steady 30 frames per second. Though the narrative nature of the series meant that this low frame rate never affected any combat-based gameplay, the frame drops were instantly noticeable and, like with Chloe’s issues on the Series S, detracted from the immersion. With better-looking games running at a higher frame rate on the PS5, it’s clear Sony’s console has the power to seamlessly run True Colours so an optimisation update wouldn’t go amiss!
You’ve Got the Music in Me
An original soundtrack for True Colors was composed by Angus & Julia Stone; the melancholic tracks featuring both the pair’s vocals and soft guitar perfectly instills Alex’s need to belong. Artists like Kings of Leon and Phoebe Bridgers are featured too. Music has always been such a vital part of the Life is Strange series and would not be the same without it. So, even though there is a handy streaming mode option that removes copyright music…it does not replace it with anything, leaving Alex to jam in awkward silence. I would highly recommend not streaming this title if you’re playing it for the first time simply for this reason. It just isn’t the same and you won’t be experiencing the full package!
Since finishing the game a week ago, I have been unable to stop listening to its soundtrack. I have been a fan of Life is Strange since it was originally released, and its soundtracks have always been stuck in my mind many weeks after I’ve stopped playing them but, I must say that True Colors, for me at least, has the best soundtrack. I related to the music in it so much, and now I’m addicted.
For me, I found that the music in True Colours was effective in amplifying the emotion of the scene however there were no tracks such as the excellent Mount Washington from the first game that I found myself thinking of after the credits wrapped.
The Truth Will Hurt
For me, True Colors is more than I could have asked for. I luckily managed to avoid any trailers but the initial reveal one, and I’m so glad I went in this way. I grew strong attachments to the characters, and the story had me laughing, gasping and crying. It also looked absolutely stunning on my Series S. I was transported to Haven Springs oblivious to the real world whenever I booted the game up. I have since gone back to get all the achievements! You can also replay any of the chapters and see what consequences other choices cause.
Ultimately, True Colours left me wanting a little more in terms of the supernatural and the pacing for the first two chapters. Look beyond the pacing and frame rate issues, however, and you’ll find a small American town with mysteries to be uncovered that is worth spending your time in.
Rapid Reviews Rating
5 out of 5
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.