Taking on topical topics like police brutality, immigration, and racism against Mexicans, Life Is Strange 2 downplays a lead’s ability to present a message.
|Director(s)||Raoul Barbet, Michel Koch|
|Writer(s)||Raoul Barbet, Michel Koch, Jean-Luc Cano|
|Genre||Point and Click, Adventure|
|Good If You Like||Choose Your Own Adventure Games|
Games Which Feature Topical Topics
|Noted or Introduced Voice Actors|
|Daniel||Roman Dean George|
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Play Through Time
3 Hours, 29 minutes
16-year-old Sean and 9 year old Daniel were being raised by their single father Esteban. It isn’t made clear where their mother is, but likely she isn’t dead. However, Sean and Daniel’s mother isn’t really a big deal anymore. For Daniel, it is just eating candy and making things around the house. As for Sean? Well, it’s possibly hooking up with this girl named Jenn, with his best friend Lyla assisting since Sean has no game.
However, after Daniel makes zombie blood and gets some on their racist neighbor, things change drastically. From Sean fighting with Brett, the neighbor, to the cops coming and shooting Esteban, followed by a gust of wind which sends people flying, the Diaz boys find their lives changing immediately. Especially since Daniel decides to run rather than face Seattle PD.
Thus sending us on a journey south, with no more than $30, making our way to Mexico. Leading us to encounter more racist people, like Hank, who bring up building the wall and the idea Daniel is a thug, whether you steal to survive or not. Yet, not all people are ass****s to you. One guy named Brody is nice.
But, perhaps the biggest challenge in all this is protecting Daniel. Not just from the truth but perhaps protecting him from himself and others. For upon learning what happened to Esteban, we realize he has telekinetic powers and he doesn’t fully have control of them.
Other Noteworthy Facts & Moments
- Deciding, with Lyla, if you are going to smoke with her, your opinion on how she draws on your hand, and whether you commit to being friends with her always.
- Who you give a chocolate candy too seems to influence Daniel’s relationship with you. Dialog-wise
- Pick your snacks wisely as you don’t end up going to that party and Daniel is way too young for bear.
- A lot of decisions depend on honesty and whether you will steal. Be it stealing from a family money jar, lying to your dad about the party (telling the truth = $30) as well as whether you steal from Doris and Hank.
- I didn’t so it might have gone easier for me than if I did.
- Confronting Brett is another one of those decisions which won’t change anything then and there but Daniel will take note of it. Similar to the latest, and last, season of TellTale Games The Walking Dead, everything your companion sees and how you interact with them seems noted.
- Perhaps one of the last big decisions is whether to call Lyla back or not, before you throw your phone away.
Question(s) Left Unanswered
- Where is Daniel and Sean’s mom?
- What are the chances of coming across Max or Chloe during this road trip?
- Was most of the burst of wind, and things like that, because of Daniel more so than your decision to let Arcadia Bay be destroyed?
- Did Brett die?
It’s Addressing Real World Issues Head On
Most video games I know, especially which have the backing of big studios like Square Enix, don’t touch topics which feature people of color. Or, if they do, it is dressed up where there is something adjacent like aliens being oppressed and you hearing the language people in the real world use to oppress them. Life Is Strange 2 is different for they make it clear Daniel and Sean are Mexican. They make it clear that this takes place in modern times, and while not everyone is racist, be it Esteban’s neighbor, the cops, or Hank, many people are.
Why? Well, it isn’t because Esteban is working and testing cars late into the night. Because Sean, multiple times a week, is coming down the street with Lyla drunk and smelling like weed, or Daniel creating crazy concoctions and harassing neighbors. The thing that is pointed to repeatedly is the Diaz family being Mexican and while you can kind of get the cop’s fears, because Brett was covered in fake zombie blood, him having his gun out was unnecessary. Especially considering how shaky he was and that he was dealing with kids.
But, I guess after Max and Chloe setting such a high standard, DONTNOD decided to make a hard left so comparisons would be difficult.
It Made Some Of Your Decisions Feel Rather Important
At this point, we all know these decision-based games will ultimately boil down to a handful of storylines. However, maintaining the illusion each decision matters with time limits, boiling things down to two choices, and adding life and death situations? It helps you put aside ideas that I could pick the worse decisions, one after another, and still survive. For example, being that Hank is racist, had no issue backhanding Daniel, and had Sean zip tied to a pipe, that led to the need to be scared a bit. Even if, with picking the wrong decisions, I know I’ll just end up bouncing back to a save point where I could pivot.
But, one thing being on the run does is make you wonder if I’m picking the lesser of two evils. Take stealing from Hank and Doris’ shop. If I steal, I save money for stuff that I can’t just snatch. However, I don’t know if building a reputation for doing stuff like that will make life harder or easier, in the long run. Especially with Daniel who may think its fine and not be as smart about taking what is needed vs. what’s wanted.
For while it isn’t clear what Daniel is capable of doing on his own, with this idea that he could follow my example, it puts you on notice.
You’re Not Playing The Character With Powers Anymore
Daniel is the character with powers and we don’t control Daniel. Also, they bury the fact Daniel has powers until the end of the episode. Which is kind of frustrating for while Max having time travel abilities wasn’t the best thing about the first season of Life Is Strange, it was a nifty feature. Especially when making decisions in a game that has you making them constantly and regretting them soon after.
On The Fence
While The Story Is Good, It Doesn’t Hook You As Quick As The Max/ Chloe Focused Stories
Taking on an issue like police brutality and racism, head on, would be awesome if this wasn’t a season 2 of a game which featured two middle-class girls. Especially girls like Max and Chloe. Since such a storyline is inherently uncomfortable and while it boosts the need to be mindful of your decisions, it also takes the fun out of playing a game a bit. Also, story-wise, even with there being Brody types in the world, it makes for a very downtrodden story that doesn’t necessarily press you to want to know what’s next.
Particularly because there isn’t that same oomph when it comes to Daniel and Sean. I don’t know if it is because they are boys, because Sean doesn’t come off that interesting, or we just need more time to get to know them. You know, more than three hours. But, I think the major issue is simply the name bringing a certain expectation. That and Daniel didn’t get the same build up as Max. The only people we got to see him optionally interact with was Daniel and his dad. Everyone else, like Lyla, and the other people in Daniel’s phone, we couldn’t chat with and build relationships with.
Instead, no sooner than we began to build a relationship with Esteban, he is dead. Leaving us with only Daniel. An adorable, but not that interesting, nine year old.
While I love the idea of a non-indie developer picking up topical things like American immigration issues and racism, I feel like it leaned too heavily on your feelings about the subjects. That is, making it where your politics had to align with the story told to really get into it. Otherwise, you just feel like you are given this sob story with two barely developed characters. Ones who you don’t even get to really mold since everything feels more linear. Not just because of their ethnic background, thus pushing the possible message of the game further, but since they are so isolated.
Hence the mixed label. While kind of fun, I miss having the ability to talk to a bunch of people, mold multiple relationships that feel like they will be important vs. the only one that may matter being one person. For in doing that, it makes you care about the character and the world they live in. That is in comparison to what we are presented with Sean who, at best, you just don’t wanna see become a statistic.