Adventure games have always been a beloved genre in gaming, whether going back to the early PC days where point-and-click, whacky adventures took precedence or the newer, Telltale-based versions we’ve seen blossom to the forefront over the last fifteen years or so.
From that modern brand of adventure game is the Life is Strange series from Don’t Nod Entertainment and Square Enix, where story, dialogue, and choice combine to offer the player an experience with heavy themes and tough decisions. Life is Strange 2 is no different, following the story of two brothers who—after some traumatic events—must fight for survival while dealing with racism in America during a period where hate was growing rapidly in the lead-up to the election of Donald Trump.
Life is Strange 2 rounds out the Life is Strange series coming to the Nintendo Switch, but with it comes some of the usual suspects in terms of ports coming to the handheld platform. Technical hiccups aside, the focus on story rather than gameplay or graphics keeps this version of Life is Strange 2 in the conversation as a respectable port of a great game.
Boasting an extraordinary story, Life is Strange 2 matches nearly any game out there in terms of suspense, drama, and reality. While the teenage coming-of-age stories the series has made its norm might not be everyone’s forte, the supernatural aspects they add in make for a very Stranger Things or Buffy the Vampire Slayer feel.
Focused on brothers Sean and Daniel Diaz, life is what you would probably expect in Seattle, Washington, for a couple of kids. The elder brother and main protagonist, Sean, is 16 years old and has school, girls, and parties on his mind, until he’s thrust into caring for his younger brother after his father is shot by a police officer. Due to the unforeseen circumstance of Daniel possessing some odd telekinetic powers, Sean must run away with his brother to avoid the trouble waiting for them back home.
“Boasting an extraordinary story, Life is Strange 2 matches nearly any game out there in terms of suspense, drama, and reality.”
Being of Mexican-American heritage, the brothers decide to head for the border, where our tale takes them through several states and tons of hardships, mainly at the hands of the rampant racism found across the United States. Twists and turns aside, Life is Strange 2 succeeds on all fronts to create a story that keeps you at the edge of your seat—yearning for more from start to finish.
Most of the gameplay is built on the strength of the stories told by the developers, with your dialogue options and choices made taking up most of your time. Areas in which you’re free to explore tend to lead to more deposition and discussion around whatever task is coming up next, where the choices made and conversations had are the real meat and potatoes.
“While the graphics are scaled down slightly, Life is Strange 2’s art style gives a lot of room to the Switch’s capabilities.”
In these open areas of exploration, items can be found littered about that allow the player to have additional dialogue about whatever it may be you’re clicking on. The number of items like this can be quite overwhelming, and considering a vast majority of them don’t actually help you or have anything to do with the story means much of this content can simply be skipped over. While some insights into Sean or Daniel’s personality can be discovered, it’s not very substantial. As is commonplace with adventure titles like Life is Strange, the player is there for the story, and the rest is just there to make that story deeper.
The fidelity of the Nintendo Switch port stands up for the most part, with mostly minor concerns for players looking to play portably. While the graphics are scaled down slightly, Life is Strange 2’s art style gives a lot of room to the Switch’s capabilities. Load times are horrendous, regardless of the Switch being in handheld or docked mode, which isn’t great when you’re mostly just waiting for the next scene to happen.
Random glitches can occur, such as in the opening sequence of the game where I opened a desk drawer in Sean’s room, only to have the contents of the drawer stay floating in the air after closing the drawer back up. Besides those things, the only other technical issue I encountered that was at all frustrating was the invisible walls around objects in the environment, which, when paired with the stiff movement, makes for the occasional eye roll as Sean gets stuck on a log for a second.
Life is Strange 2 does everything it wants to do exceptionally well. The story is TV-show-worthy from beginning to end, with important story choices to be made and deep dialogue that adds a level of strategy and exploration to simple conversations. While the gameplay isn’t interesting, that’s not what these types of games are made for. In terms of platform choice, the Nintendo Switch port, while having some issues not found on higher-powered hardware, isn’t rough enough to discourage those preferring a portable option from making the purchase.