Life is Strange is a very special game to me, with its perfect balance of emotional storytelling, likable characters, and wonderful soundtrack all ensuring that it will always stand out as one of my favourite releases of all time. Playing it in 2015 when it first came out felt special, and now, seven years on, it hasn’t lost that sense of allure in the slightest.
It has finally made its way to the Nintendo Switch in the form of the Arcadia Bay Collection, which bundles the original game and its prequel, Life is Strange: Before the Storm, into one sweet little portable package. However, some delays to the release as well as the limitations of the console did leave me wondering just how well the game would hold up. So how does it play? It’s adequate, even if it’s a far cry from being the best way to experience the emotional journey of Max and Chloe.
Check out some screenshots down below:
In Life is Strange, players take on the role of Max Caldwell as she returns home to Arcadia Bay, all whilst re-uniting with her rebellious best friend Chloe Price and investigating the disappearance of a fellow student name Rachel Amber. Whilst the story itself brings plenty of emotional thrills and spills, the fact that Max can also rewind time adds a topsy-turvy element where you can alter the course of events that have taken place.
Meanwhile, Life is Strange: Before the Storm takes place prior to Max’s homecoming, with players instead playing as Chloe as she deals with struggles at home and forges a friendship with the aforementioned Rachel. You learn more about the special bond they shared and how important they were to one-another, whilst also uncovering the clues as to what led up to Rachel’s disappearance. There are no time-shifting elements in play here, though Chloe’s fiery personality does allow her to get her own way by backchatting to other characters and winning arguments.
The narratives of both games are emotional and absorbing, with the characters you encounter both a believable and likable bunch that help ensure that the storytelling remains top notch. The situations you find yourself in across both games bring plenty of excitement too, whilst the fact that you make choices along the way to shape the narrative adds a greater sense of consequence to your actions. Some of these can be life or death situations, whilst some will determine your relationship with other characters; both games can take some truly harrowing turns, but the fact that they’re determined by the player makes them even more engaging.
“There are so many good things I could say about both games, but I’ll simplify it to this: they’re a must play experience.”
Just be warned: it can be a very sad game with gut-punch after gut-punch. In some twisted way, that’s what makes the game so appealing, but the fact that it draws pure emotion out of me and brings me to tears EVERY time I play shows just how powerful it is. I don’t want to go into detail so I don’t spoil anything, but yeah, there’s some captivating storytelling here.
When it comes to gameplay, Life is Strange: Arcadia Bay Collection plays like your typical narrative adventure. You’ll move between an array of environments, grab a few items here and there, interact with characters, and solve small puzzles to move the story forward – you’ll also make choices as to how you want to respond to characters and events, with each choice often affecting the things you do or how a character will respond to you. Whilst the aforementioned time-reversing and backchatting elements do tie into gameplay, it’s never in an especially significant way that makes the game feel completely different to play to any other narrative adventure out there. And that’s fine. Sure, Life is Strange: Arcadia Bay Collection’s gameplaymay bring with it a sense of familiarity for fans of the genre, but it does so in an enjoyable manner that helps makes it fun.
Add to that the BRILLIANT soundtrack that fits the tone of each scene of the game perfectly, and you’ll quickly see that there’s a LOT to like about Life is Strange: Arcadia Bay Collection. There are so many good things I could say about both games, but I’ll simplify it to this: they’re a must play experience, especially for those who appreciate emotional storytelling.
Check out some screenshots down below:
So how does it play on the Nintendo Switch? Well, whilst both games are fine to play through, there are quite a few shortcomings. The visuals are a little fuzzy and don’t feel like they’ve held up that well for example, even with the improvements brought with the remastered release. I noticed quite a bit of pop-in on occasions, whilst the character animations feel a bit more stilted when compared to other platforms. I can’t say it’s an ugly game at all because it isn’t, but there’s a significant difference to be seen when comparing the Nintendo Switch release with more powerful consoles.
The loads times can be painful too, so you’ll want something to keep yourself occupied as you transition between scenes. Whilst it’s understandable given that the Nintendo Switch doesn’t have an SSD to speed things up, the wait still felt significantly longer than I’ve had in similar releases on the console. It doesn’t help that there’s a lot of shifting between scenes, with the wait between them sure to draw plenty of frustration from players.
Other than those issues, everything plays alright. Again, you won’t get the smooth frame rate of other platforms, but it’s mostly consistent and never dropped to severely low levels that made it unplayable. There were occasions where the visuals would look great too, so it does have its moments. And hey, it’s great to be able to take the game on the go and play it portable, so it has that going for it. It’s just clear that it’s inferior to every other platform I’ve played the game on, with the Nintendo Switch only being easy to recommend if it’s your only option.
Life is Strange: Arcadia Bay Collection Review
Life is Strange: Arcadia Bay Collection offers two outstanding experiences that still feel special today, even IF the Nintendo Switch version of the games are inferior to other platforms. It’s not that it’s unplayable at all, but rather that it doesn’t have the visual quality or technical performance seen elsewhere… add to that some lengthy load times and it’ll be clear that this is an inferior version when compared to other consoles or PC.
Still, there’s no denying the brilliance of both Life is Strange and Life is Strange: Before the Storm, and they still hold up well on the Nintendo Switch. It wouldn’t be the platform I recommend playing the games on, but they’re still games you simply HAVE to play.
Developer: DONTNOD Entertainment
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed)