Life is Strange 2‘s first episode was a relatively strong way to kick off a season. Despite some signature tacky dialogue, it ended up laying the foundation for a decent series and the long windup to Episode 2 has only heightened those expectations. But the lengthy wait has not quite worked out in the game’s favor as Life is Strange 2 Episode 2‘s slow pacing is as frozen as its setting.
It doesn’t freeze to a halt right off the bat as it picks up almost a month after the ending of the first episode where Daniel, the younger Diaz brother, nearly tore the hotel in half with his newly acquired powers. Skipping into the future glosses over the boring bits of him learning to pick up pine cones and jumps right into him tossing heavier objects with more precision. This decision signals that this episode would rather cut the fat and not obsess over the awkward origins, which is initially promising yet ultimately ironic.
This episode sorely lacks much that pushes these characters forward in the long and short run but especially the latter. Sean and Daniel’s stint in the wilderness isn’t as compelling because not much actually happens outside a few, quiet character moments. This isn’t limited to their isolation either since the lack of substance also extends to the other section of the game.
Whereas the first episode had parts like the run in with the racist old man and the racist, trigger-happy cop, this entry has very little of those moment to moment, self-contained plots that ratchet up the tempo. Its smaller stories are not as cohesive or interesting and it spends that time letting the player wander around and examine objects. Meandering about, doing chores, and playing games with Daniel isn’t always bad as it lets you explore the world and bond with the characters but a good episode should have more than that. It doesn’t make up for how narratively thin this episode is and that’s a big problem for a narrative-focused game like Life is Strange 2.
Traveling to Mexico is still the main goal and the game still mostly keeps that objective in sight. But the little points that punctuate that grander goal are almost nonexistent. Episodic games need to divided up in ways that contribute to the overarching story while also standing on their own. This entry only hints at the former while not having enough memorable moments and plot to make a strong case for the latter.
Life is Strange 2 Episode 2 review | Captain Spirit returns
Episode 2 does more heavily tie into a grander story, but not its own. Daniel and Sean eventually cross paths with the eccentric loner, Chris and his abusive, piece of shit dad from The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit. Playing the free prequel gives more context to the dynamic between Chris and his father and the game creatively plays with Chris’ fake powers and Daniel’s real ones.
Seeing Chris’ world through someone else’s eyes is a modest payoff for those who have played his short spin-off but, again, the episode doesn’t do much with it in the short term. Serving as an opportunity to show how much Daniel should use his powers has broader scope than this episode yet the game doesn’t find out many ways to channel that into what they’re currently doing in this episode. Going to the market and playing at Chris’ house just isn’t prime dramatic material. While fine enough on their own merits, these moments are supplemental to the bigger story in the episode that doesn’t happen.
Part of the pacing struggles because of how many things there are to interact with at any given moment. “Interact” is a little hyperbolic since most just end up squeezing a sentence or two out of Sean without any input from you. These elements are meant to sparingly dole out the inner thoughts and workings of the main characters. However, the excessive amount of these points flood the game and feel like busy-work because of their sheer number and low impact. Since a small handful have meaning and consequences, it’s hard to not just go to every single thing in the room, press the interaction button, listen, and then move on in hopes to find something that will be helpful. It takes up a ton of time and slows the pacing to crawl since looking at them stops you dead in your tracks.
Life is Strange 2 Episode 2 review | Like, still a bit awkward, bro
Having a gratuitous amount of trinkets to mess around with is a holdover from the previous installment just like the semi-awkward dialogue and occasionally stilted performances. From Sean telling his grandma that he is “not a player” to the exorbitant amount of laughably fake coughing, there’s almost always something that’s off about how the characters speak and what they say.
Teens and kids probably actually talk like this but that doesn’t make for good dialogue. The best non-adults in media often speak in a way that skews less toward realism and more toward legitimately well-written dialogue. We know teens aren’t that clever but it makes for a better viewing experience. It’s not nearly as cringeworthy as the first season, but Life is Strange still struggles with creating believable people that are also enjoyable to listen to.
Life is Strange 2 Episode 2 feels more like a crossover bonus sequel to The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit than a true continuation of the first episode. While it does slowly inch toward the story at large, it fails in making a meaningful plot of its own in the meantime and lacks much substance thanks to the clumsy dialogue and boring scenes. It results in an episode that doesn’t carry its weight as a standalone experience and leans solely on its position of it being a piece of a bigger game. That’s a problem for an episodic game and means that Daniel should probably use his telekinetic to pick up the pacing in the next installment instead of just rocks and small animals.
Life is Strange 2 Episode 2 was reviewed on PS4 via a digital code provided by the publisher.