Rating: M for Mature
Price: $29.99 (Whole Season—5 Episodes)
After playing the whirlwind of emotions (no pun intended) that was the first season of Life Is Strange, I was eager for more experiences in or around the game’s location of Arcadia Bay. While the sequel is still set in the Pacific Northwest, Arcadia Bay has become a bit of an afterthought. Season 2 stars brothers Sean and Daniel Diaz, who are forced to run away from their home in Seattle after a tragic incident involving their father and their racist next door neighbor. Pursued by the police, Sean & Daniel head to Mexico while attempting to conceal Daniel’s sudden and surprising supernatural power. The second episode sees both brothers on the road once again, only this time a cold, snowy winter is working against them and Daniel is showing signs of a severe cough.
Spiritual Content: In The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, religion was mentioned only passively; it actually plays a prominent role in this episode’s plot. While not heavy-handed, there is scene involving a family praying together and the player can choose to have Sean participate in this prayer or not. All in all, the game is very respectful of Christianity and Sean mentions several times that their story might’ve turned out differently if they had gone to church growing up.
Violence: Aside from one surprisingly bloody scene involving two animals, there is little to no violence in this episode.
Language: Just like with LiS, the Before the Storm spin-off, and Captain Spirit, f-bombs and other expletives are used frequently. While some will find the language offensive and inappropriate at certain points, it does lend a sense of realism to the characters as actual teenagers do use that kind of language, especially in very troubling situations. Sean can even encourage Daniel to stop cursing or let him turn into quite the potty mouth. That choice is ultimately up to the player.
Drug Use: Characters are seen smoking and/or drinking and main characters mention a few times that they wish they could drink to help them cope with a stressful situation.
Sexuality: There is very little sexual content in this episode aside from a few cheeky remarks from a new character about 3/4 of the way through the story.
Other Questionable Content: The Life is Strange series is known for shedding light on some controversial issues like child pornography, underage sex, drinking, drug use, gun violence (including in a school), suicide, and bullying. I am happy to say that Episode 2 is more even-keeled than Episode 1 in how it deals with sensitive topics like struggling with alcoholism, child abuse, and racism.
LiS2 Ep. 2: Rules picks up a little after the first episode. Having just discovered Daniel’s latent powers, the brothers have him practice lifting heavy rocks and other objects along the river as they head back to their camp. The pair, along with their newly adopted puppy Mushroom, arrive home to the abandoned cabin that once belonged to a hunter and his family, only to find themselves low on food and medicine. This puts them in a dire situation as Daniel is developing a pretty bad cough and Sean is out of ideas on how to help him recover. After a few moments bonding with his brother, making dinner, and taking Mushroom for a walk the brothers decide to head to their grandparents’ house.
As we know from Ep. 1, the brother’s mom, Karen, abandoned them when they were both very young and Daniel remembers next to nothing about her while Sean still harbors resentment towards her for leaving them. After a tragedy befalls them at the hunting cabin the pair set out on foot to Beaver Creek in the hopes that they can lie low with their grandparents for awhile. After some initial skepticism, the boys are accepted with open arms setting in motion the events that lead up to the brothers meeting Chris, their next door neighbor and the protagonist of The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit. At the start of the episode, the game will even read your completed Captain Spirit save, so be sure to hold onto it if you want those choices to carry over.
The underlying threat in this episode is twofold. On the one hand, the brothers now have a home for the time being even if they do have to do chores and help out around the house. However, due to the police being after them, they cannot leave the house under any circumstances. Daniel also has a curiosity about his mother now that they have reunited with her parents, and the temptation to sneak into her old room and learn more about her takes its toll on the younger Diaz brother.
After an impromptu trip to pick out a Christmas tree with Chris and his dad, the brothers return home and find the key to their mother’s old room while their grandparents are attending church. After discovering a recent letter from their mother and confronting their grandparents about it, events transpire that put the brothers, their long lost family, and their new friend Chris, in danger. With little time to think, and even less time to act, the brothers sneak out of town and hitch a ride to California by stowing away on a passing train. This puts them one step closer to their goal of getting to Mexico and their dad’s hometown.
Despite a better overall story, this episode is not without its flaws. The tie-in to Captain Spirit feels like an afterthought and somewhat of a waste considering how this episode potentially ends. I also get the sense that Dontnod doesn’t really know where the story is going with these characters as their next goal is constantly changing throughout the episode and seems to bounce back to the same thing no matter what choices you make or how you try to develop each brother.
Overall, this episode is much better at tying together the heavy themes of alcohol abuse, child abuse, abandonment, and the tragic loss of loved ones in a much more empathetic and inclusive fashion. There are no cartoonish and unrealistic portrayals of modern race relations in America this time around. By introducing new characters that players WILL start to care about and who are sure to be seen again throughout the rest of the season, DontNod has made me fall for this series again. I am eager to see how the events that transpire in this episode impact the bond between Sean and Daniel as the season progresses. Fans of the first game and the premiere of this new season should definitely check out Rules. It truly contains some of the best and most emotional storytelling I have seen in a long time. When these characters hurt, I hurt, and there are few games that I can say that about.
The Bottom Line
Despite a lack of clear narrative direction, LiS 2 Episode 2 nonetheless brings back the quality storytelling of Season 1, complete with new faces, tough decisions, and gut wrenching consequences that will impact the rest of the season.