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Life Is Strange: Episode 4 - Dark Room

By BloodyFanGirl22-08-2015

The Defence

DONTNOD Entertainment
Square Enix
Action, Adventure
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core 2 Duo 3.0 GHz
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce GTX 260
AMD Radeon HD 4890
2 GB
3 GB

The Case

Last episode ended with Max hoping to create a better timeline. Whilst this timeline is arguably better in parts, it is definitely worse in others. All Max has ever set out to do is make things better and inadvertently her actions have only served to escalate whatever’s happening in Arcadia Bay. With the series nearing its end, does this episode serve to ramp things up to fever pitch or does this episode mark the beginning of the series’ steady descent?

The Trial

Taking a leaf out of Bobfish’s book, this review is going to be a little different: This first page will be a spoiler-free overview with page two being a spoiler-filled analysis of the episode. Choose which page to read first wisely as the spoilt cannot be unspoilt...

As with many of these episodic games, it’s difficult to say much that is meaningful about them without horrifically spoiling them. However, for the first portion of this review, I shall endeavour to do just that. So it goes, this episode opens on an expected emotionally raw note. What is unexpected is how much salt in the wound the game is willing to rub in. Not only that, but what is also surprising is just how little this alternate timeline tangent means in the grand scheme of things, ultimately cheapening its impact. For a game that prides itself on meaningful choices and the consequences that follow them this is particularly disheartening. How the game handles this whole opening portion can be taken as somewhat prophetic for the rest of the episode; there are good bits followed by bits that undo, or otherwise mar at least some of that goodness.

Something's a bit fishy.

Something's a bit fishy.

This opening section finishes with Max leaving and starting her investigation in earnest. She reviews the clues her and her blue haired friend have collected. But the answers this imparts takes them to a brand new location and only serves to lead them far further down the rabbit hole. Again, this a recurring theme throughout the episode; just as one is left feeling they’re starting to get a grip on the mystery of Arcadia Bay, the bigger picture only reveals itself to be yet another puzzle piece in an even bigger pitch. This continuing mounting of questions makes one wonder whether the developers really are going to manage to tie up all of the loose ends next episode in the series’ finale or whether that too will merely open up an even bigger Pandora’s box, ready for a second season. I wouldn’t mind a second season but I sincerely hope that season one finishes its first course before it moves to dessert. All of that said, this episode does answer one core part of the mystery: where Rachel Amber is and what happened to her. It’s... well, to say anymore would be pretty spoiler-y. But it is to the episode’s credit that it finally offers up this bread crumb and shows us how it links in to the bigger picture. For the most part, the reveal is impactful and that’s as it should be.

Another strength for this episode is that it continues to give depth to characters that previously appeared one dimensional. Sadly, some villains do still stop by for a scene or two to twirl their moustaches but most are revealed to be sympathetic in the end or to at least have hidden depths. However this character development, especially for the villains, is often extremely heavy handed, with some characters outright stating their motivations in an awkward, inorganic way. Oh, yeah, and David Madsen’s dialogue is still camping in a militarised lexical field and his dialogue almost feels parodic because of it. That said, the writers have definitely dialled back the ridiculous teen slang and the dialogue is much stronger (and much more tolerable) because of it.

A polaroid? How gauche.

A polaroid? How gauche.

As with the rest of the season so far, this episode’s sound track and presentation is on point. The ‘Summer-Teen-Mystery-Indie-Film’ vibe is upheld and wonderfully so. If you’ve enjoyed watching Paper Towns recently and want something in a similar vein but with the weirdness upped and slightly less wish fulfilment, you’re probably going to really like this. What is not on point is the occasional rewind glitches that I’ve experienced in other episodes and are still present here. The glitch occurs after frequent and prolonged rewinding which makes difficult sequences, as rare as they are, even more frustrating. There’s an especially difficult conversation with Frank in this episode and the game crashed at least twice whilst I was desperately trying to get on Frank’s good side.

And that is the spoiler-free version of my thoughts. As previously stated, you can read an expanded version with spoilers on the next page. I do not recommend clicking ahead until after you’ve played this episode or unless you are like me and generally don’t care about being spoilt. For those not wanting spoilers, the verdict, case review and final rating are spoiler-free below. See you on the other side!

The Verdict

Even though Life Is Strange has its moments where it stumbles, I am far too invested to hold that against it for long. Here’s hoping this is just a dip in the road rather than the beginning of a decline and that the series goes out with a bang in episode 5.

Case Review

  • THE FEELS: This episode carries on the series’ emotional rollercoaster.
  • Pretty~: The series’ presentation is consistently to a high standard and this episode’s soundtrack in particular is on point.
  • Character Development: Everyone does a lot of growing here, with even the villains becoming more multi-faceted and interesting.
  • Clunk, clunk, clunk: The dialogue has never been the series’ strong point. It’s much more bearable this episode but awkwardness persists.
  • Cheap: Inadvertently, this episode does a surprising amount to dampen the punch of its more emotional moments.
Score: 3.5/5
Life is getting stranger. And it’s great! Mostly!


Much like the two episodes before it, Dark Room picks up where it’s predecessor began. This time quite literally following on from the exact moment Episode 3 ended. Followed by a scene which, for me, was tiresome padding. Lacking the emotional resonance DONTNOD were clearly aiming for because, bluntly, I do not like Chloe Price. I actively dislike her. She is impetuous, selfish and completely lacks any sense of personal accountability. Everything is someone else’s fault, the world is always out to get her and all of that is highlighted more keenly than ever when...she stops doing that.

Though the majority of the episode is focused on digging up the particulars of Rachel Amber’s fate and putting together the last few pieces around her disappearance. A lot of the scenes with Chloe show her finally coming to terms with, for lack of a better term, how much of an asshole she is. She apologises for being bitchy when Katie called Max in episode 2, even deals surprisingly civilly when confronting Frank about his relationship with Rachel. Though that scene can end with Frank and Pompidou dead. But even that is done out of genuine concern for Max’s well being.

Unfortunately, these smaller details are overshadowed by some really poor pacing. With a good hour’s worth of content following the final revelation of Rachel, which really throws off the pacing. And, oddly enough, clocking in at four hours, the longest episode so far, it starts to drag and feels like it’s too long. Which is certainly not something you will often hear said about an episodic game. Overall, however, barring my graphics settings yet again reverting to defaults, the episode was still solid, but stands as the weakest of the series. Bearing in mind, however, the weakest of the Star Wars trilogy is still part of the Star Wars trilogy. That’s a very different thing than being bad. Just not as good as the other three.

Score: 4/5


Max starts out in an alternate timeline where her best friend is a paraplegic, unfortunately you don’t stay there for very long. That period of the game was a missed opportunity to explore this alternative timeline as one of the preppy kids. The game was trying to convey to the player that Max can travel through time using pictures from her past, and that travelling through time can have huge consequences, especially on her friend Chloe. Since Chloe wasn’t a very likeable character, the beginning felt rather pointless. Chloe was a much more tolerable person when she’s injured and suicidal.

When the player returns to the normal timeline, we get a new gameplay mechanic which has us use the process of elimination from clues to gather evidence against Nathan Prescott. This new mechanic is very fun and makes the player feel like a real detective. The evidence leads to an old abandoned barn owned by the Prescotts. Before entering the dark room the typical time travelling puzzles are present, which were a bit more difficult to figure out this time around. Once entering the underground cellar Rachael Amber's fate is finally revealed. It isn’t until after Max and Chloe leave the vortex party that the true climax occurs revealing Mr. Jefferson as the one involved with Rachael Amber’s murder.

Though the reveal of Mr. Jefferson as the culprit was used effective enough, Life Is Strange Dark Room dragged in a lot of places, especially at the beginning and the vortex party part. Character models are still attractive with terrible lip syncing issues. The pacing of this story was a bit more clustered than the previous episodes. Life Is Strange would’ve worked better as a 6 episode series, with Dark Room split into two episodes instead of one. Chloe has been shot, whatever, she’ll likely be saved through Max’s time travel. How Max will regain her time travel abilities, and how she’ll escape from Jefferson’s clutches is something to look forward to.

Score: 3.5/5
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Posts: 3290

Wow Bunny.

Just wow.

This is why I love you ^_^