Life is Unusual’s premise as a franchise is straightforward: a drama reflecting the actual world, with the caveat of a protagonist having some kind of “superpowers.” Maybe it’s a “curse,” when you select to explain it by way of the lips of Alex Chen, the protagonist of True Colours. On this case, Alex can sense feelings; stronger feelings seem as aura, and there are different little nuances that you simply unlock by way of gameplay.
That energy is under no circumstances going to be your concern each second of the sport, because the true power of True Colours is the world across the superpowered protagonist. The concentrate on trendy characters, settings, and story that made the Life is Unusual anthology a hit returns in True Colours, this time through a small American city.
Should you’re new, there’s no want for backstory, as that is its personal deal that you would be able to hop proper into with no prior data of LiS video games. However is Life is Unusual: New Colours well worth the trek to new lands?
Riveting and Bingeable
Alex is an orphan who has been in a shelter till her brother, separated eight years earlier than, finds her and invitations her to dwell with him. The sport begins upon her arrival in Haven Springs, Colorado, a correct “small city” the place a lot of the commerce and earnings comes from a serious mining company. And whereas it’s technically spoilers, the advertising and marketing of the sport discusses her brother’s loss of life, which turns into the driving level of the sport’s story.
As at all times, Life is Unusual divides its story into chapters. Nonetheless, in True Colours, all 5 predominant chapters had been made obtainable at launch. It’s a change from the previous episodic releases of the Life is Unusual video games, which tended to launch with pauses of three or extra months, not together with growth delays. I’ll admit, I a lot want this format within the period of bingeable media. It felt like barreling by way of a riveting Netflix present, one which I might select to discover extra deeply and spend extra time with if I really wished. And it didn’t really feel too lengthy, both, although I want there have been extra chapters to tempo out sure scenes and factors higher.
Talking of dramas, Life Is Unusual, as at all times, does a incredible job centering itself on the “drama” facet lower than the “trendy fantasy” facet with out sacrificing the latter. The Empathy trait performs into each the precise world of the sport and the participant’s understanding of it extraordinarily nicely.
The plot this all facilities round is Netflix-worthy, too. The primary chapter feels prefer it jumped the shark a bit whenever you dig too deep into the premise, however the execution feels comparatively pure regardless. When you recover from this, the remainder of the plot performs out at an inexpensive tempo and seems like a thriller value pursuing. It’s not all stuffed into a couple of days, both; textual content messages and social media posts present extra context about time handed and interactions that needn’t occur in-person. It makes a number of the grieving that occurs really feel extra actual.
Attending to know the characters is a vital a part of Life is Unusual, and so they’re all frankly lovable, even those I like to hate. Alex herself is unquestionably a “chaotic bisexual;” in brief, she dishes out nice one-liners and is, as the children would say, “relatable” in an genuine means. Within the quick time you already know him, Alex’s brother Gabe simply demonstrates why the entire city finally ends up mourning him. And each romantic choices, Ryan and Steph, have distinctive sufficient personalities that make them endearing as each mates and potential companions. I even started to marvel about background characters that may loiter or say hello, and characters displayed in antagonistic mild had their factors of sympathy. As a lot as I loved the thriller of Haven Springs alone, the forged actually stored me coming again.
The sport does loads of exploration of the broader themes that set the premise for Alex’s character: dwelling life as an impoverished Asian, the troubles that come from a troubled childhood, the uncared for lives of orphans. Whereas I can’t communicate on the total expertise of parentlessness, the groups behind the Life is Unusual titles are inclined to put some care (and not-so-subtle presentation) into its tough, if typically secondary, topics: suicide within the first recreation, racism and xenophobia within the second. However in all instances, whereas the messages behind them are sometimes blunt, they lay an attention-grabbing, vital basis to the sport’s characters and provides them fuller life and soul.
On a lighter observe, the environment of the sport was fairly beautiful as nicely, from surroundings to music. Main as much as True Colours’ launch, I’d obtained frequent emails from the Sq. Enix press staff in regards to the significance of music, and I felt it from the second Alex pulled into Haven Springs. There’s loads of diegetic music, present inside the world of the sport, that performed an vital half in lots of scenes. In brief, loads of nice musical and sound design decisions. The graphics had been additionally beautiful; I like to recommend leveraging a number of the “sit” factors to soak within the mixture of music and setting.
Should you’ve performed the primary Life is Unusual, this will likely all really feel like oddly acquainted reward. I’ll admit to not having totally performed the second recreation launched, however loads of the complexity that Life is Unusual 2 launched appeared to fade. Possibly it’s for the higher, as the primary LiS was rattling robust by itself, and falling again to the strengths is at all times a secure technique. This simply meant that True Colours needed to do these issues nicely, and I’d argue Deck 9, which took over the franchise and absorbed a few of DONTNOD’s authentic LiS staff and Telltale Studios workers, completed this.
Future Life is Unusual video games are going to have a tough time following up from the Empathy energy. As you progress, similar to different Life is Unusual installations, Empathy begins to play a extra direct position within the story. You assist determine why others are feeling a sure means by way of prolonged interactions, utilizing objects related to their moods to grasp previous actions and rationales. By the top, you can too take their feelings for your self, relieving them of that burden.
It makes for an interesting, lived-in world. As a collectibles bonus, you’re in a position to collect “reminiscences” that offer you historical past on sure main characters. These are solely non-compulsory, however they really feel like they exist in lieu of messily-placed flashbacks. Plus, NPCs all through the streets are sometimes interactable, and also you get to intrude only a bit into what they’re considering. In some instances, you possibly can even help them of their menial duties and conundrums.
When utilizing these powers in main scenes, it seems like the sport asks you—are their feelings yours to really feel? The place and when is empathy an excessive amount of? You typically do assist when it feels important for the second, however on the different pivotal moments when your energy turns into a selection, the selection faucets into your real-life empathy. Like all good pick-your-own-adventure recreation, you’re left to consider what the implications of your actions are. Within the case of True Colours, the sport does a splendid job with not making sure “questionable” decisions really feel punishing.
I’ll additionally admit that maybe my reward of the decision-making narrative is biased attributable to my outcomes. Each final result, even those I had no concept diverged, appeared to align with what I wished. On the time I performed, lower than every week after the worldwide launch, solely 11% of gamers had achieved what one would think about the “greatest ending” within the recreation’s main climax. And as I browsed the opposite endings, it was a frequent theme: loads of gamers didn’t obtain lots of the issues I had.
However perhaps I achieved these items as a result of the “empathy” that the studio claims to wish to educate was already there. To not toot my very own horn (and I’m actually sorry as a result of I type of am), however I wished to genuinely perceive and sympathize with everybody. It made loads of the tougher decisions that I knew had been actually proper harder. Usually, I’m simply actually frank in my online game dialogue decisions. But honesty isn’t at all times “proper,” and some decisions on this recreation actually emphasised this thought. When two of those decisions felt prefer it gathered into an excellent ending—and when one character praised the protagonist for a constructive trait affiliated with their selection—I sighed out a breath of aid.
Does Life is Unusual: True Colours educate empathy? I’d argue no, it gamifies it. Hell, I’m clearly gamifying it already. But it surely reminds you that there are penalties to even probably the most well-intended, like loads of different incredible trendy choose-your-own-adventure, dialogue-based video games, or “strolling simulators,” or no matter else you’d name them are inclined to handle. (A “live-in drama?” “Drama recreation?” I dunno. We’d like a greater title for these.)
I performed True Colours on the PlayStation 5, as a result of (1) that was apparently the code we had; (2) I wished to see how a recreation like this, which is usually hand-crafted with love by a smaller studio, is dealt with by the monster of a console; and (3) I simply wished to lie down on my condo’s new futon-sofa. Typically, True Colours was fantastic on the PC, however there was definitely fraying on the seams.
My largest grievance is a two-parter of complaints about cutscene design and rendering velocity for a whopping mega-sized “immersion” grievance. I believe True Colours makes an attempt to render too quick for its personal good, which is worrying as a result of it already takes loads of time to load every new display. I had loads of cases the place a cutscene would merely reduce away in a jarring method, with no music nor cutscene fading, which was simply poor route. However when many different cutscenes loaded again in, characters and the like could be lacking and cargo in a second or two later.
There have been additionally some less-than-mild, noticeable bugs all through. I forgot to maintain observe of all of them, however loads had been jarring in my reminiscence. Within the third chapter, the pores and skin texture of the child accompanying Alex turned black, adopted by a number of crashes in transitions between areas. One other memorable one was an NPC perpetually strolling within the background of the fourth chapter. I keep in mind dialogue that I knew wasn’t meant to be there popping up (which I keep in mind as a bug within the first recreation). I additionally skilled fairly a couple of full-game crashes, which was bearable as a result of autosave characteristic, however nonetheless.
Some excellent news is that at the least the sport seemed completely beautiful in high-definition, or no matter you name “type of 4k however not likely.” This was undoubtedly not a recreation meant to be scaled as much as 4k, nevertheless it actually did its greatest, and it was good for it. Extra unhealthy information is that it nonetheless took fairly a couple of seconds to load. Like, was I actually enjoying a PS5 at that time?
I’m nonetheless calling it “playable” on the PS5 regardless. Is it beneficiant? In all probability. The crashes had been annoying, however, once more, autosave. And sure, I did have to sit down by way of buggy textures for one main character for a whole chapter. To me, it’s such a slow-paced recreation (not in a nasty means) that I didn’t actually really feel notably affected. With the magic of PS5’s half-decent loading occasions, I might simply pop again the place I left off.
Should you had been already a fan of Life is Unusual, then Haven Springs is totally value a go to. True Colours doesn’t introduce a lot new, nevertheless it continues the collection’ strongest factors in a strong new story that’s certain to have you ever chasing it down till the very finish. And whereas the PlayStation 5 efficiency left lots to be desired, it didn’t low cost the expertise sufficient to cease me from enjoying. Alex Chen could have a spot in my coronary heart for an excellent whereas.
https://www.mmog.com/critiques/not-so-mmo-life-is-strange-true-colors-review-2000123096 | Not So MMO: Life Is Unusual: True Colours Overview