Life is Strange: True Colors (PlayStation 5) Review

By Steven Mattern 23.09.2021

Review for Life is Strange: True Colors on PlayStation 5

Back in 2015, DONTNOD and Square Enix developed Life is Strange, an episodic choose-your-own adventure game released over the course of a year. Players made dialogue and interaction choices, big and small, to carve out their own unique path through a broader narrative that the developers wanted to tell, but it ultimately ended with a binary choice that left fans conflicted. Since then, DONTNOD themselves have developed a sequel with a new cast and Deck Nine decided to take it upon themselves to develop a prequel. Despite being received fairly well, it was clear that they had their hands tied with characters that weren't theirs in a story that didn't need telling. Now, Deck Nine has a chance to tell their own story in the Life is Strange world, and it is a well told and emotionally provocative narrative that in many ways surpasses the first title.

Life is Strange: True Colors follows Alex Chen, a young adult living in a group home who is set to reunite with her brother after eight years of separation. Living in a small town in Colorado, Gabe introduces Alex to the locals while encouraging her to be more active in her life. Later that day, tragedy strikes and Alex is confronted with conflict and grief as she tries to solve the murder in the town. Aside from gaining the help of two newfound friends, she has her own power—as is typical for protagonists in the series—and it's the most creative yet. The core mystery and cast of characters is very good across the board. As the story digs deeper, the culprit is easily picked out, but the why and how is kept interesting through to the end. It should be noted that like the previous games, there are a couple moments of peril that may concern some players. Still, they're not as intense as before.

Screenshot for Life is Strange: True Colors on PlayStation 5

Alex possesses a really intense form of empathy, taking it to a whole new level. She can see coloured auras around people with strong emotions like red for anger, blue for sadness, purple for fear, and yellow for joy. Depending on how close she is to someone with an intense emotion, she will feel the same level of emotional impact as them. She can also read minds to understand why they feel certain ways. This power Alex has is amplified in the context of the game world and allows for a vibrant palette filled with colour. Objects can be interacted with like in past installments, but there are some that exude emotional aura as well. When inspected, Alex will hear voices that give background on that item. In certain sequences, these items will be all over to help Alex deduce how best to help a friend. These sequences highlight fantastic art design, probably the best in the series, and with an emotional story at its core, this had to get nailed. Scenes like these that really lean in on the colour of a character's emotion around them help sell Alex's compassionate personality, something that Max or Chloe didn't consistently portray before.

Screenshot for Life is Strange: True Colors on PlayStation 5

Life is Strange is a series with music as a part of its core DNA. Deck Nine and Square Enix enlisted the help of musicians to bring some of their audio talent to their project. Before the Storm had Daughter. For True Colors, they brought Mxmtoon on board to perform as Alex's singing voice with Angus & Julia Stone and Novo Amor working with her to compose original tunes. She does a great job, but unfortunately due to the setting, there is a lot of licensed copyrighted music. This can't be avoided, given the setting of a small town with a local radio and record store, but the solution provided for people to stream the game leaves a lot to be desired. To solve this, a Live Stream mode is available. On one hand, having a Twitch audience tip the scale for major decisions can be really engaging. On the other hand, the implementation of using it to remove the copyrighted music is low effort and laughable. One would hope that the artists composing original songs would have helped create replacement tracks for at least these smaller introspective moments with Alex, but instead they're dead silent in this mode; highlighting a problem with content creation and what's fair to allow in games. All of the music fits with True Colorswell and helps sell the title's identity, but having to take most of it away and replace it with silence kills the mood. There was a missed opportunity here.

Screenshot for Life is Strange: True Colors on PlayStation 5

For all the good storytelling, character work, musical influence, and colourful artwork, there are a few noteworthy visual blemishes. Note that Cubed3 played on version 1.002, and the developers have acknowledged some of the issues they plan to fix. In this site's playtime, there was some camera judder, t-poses, and issues with the ray tracing. Deck Nine assures that these will be fixed in future patches relatively soon. There is one more issue, that the developers stand firmly by not fixing. With or without the ray tracing feature on, the framerate is capped at 30 fps on PlayStation 5, and they chose to keep it that way to enhance the game's 'cinematic quality.' From this reviewer's perspective, more frames are always better and PS5 definitely has the ability to push it. However, in Deck Nine's defense, there are some select scenes towards the end if the game that have major drop issues and an unlocked framerate could have made these worse.

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Life is Strange: True Colors is a complete title that will take around nine to ten hours to finish. This might prove a bit steep for the price, but the pacing and character work do well to make this story worth the time. The colourful visuals compliment Alex's power, but there are a few rough patches along the way. Despite the soundtrack of original and licensed songs blending into the world, the Live Stream mode is half baked and should be revisited in the future because as a shared experience; this game shines with complexion.

Developer

Deck Nine Games

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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