On the surface, DONTNOD's divisive Life Is Strange seems to have a lot in common with Richard Linklater's Boyhood in tone and feel. Sure, there's the heavy sci-fi underpinning and a city with plenty of dark secrets – in a Twin Peaks kind of way – but it retains the feel that the aforementioned flick captured by incorporating the mundanity of everyday life and a meandering feeling of normalcy alongside some heavier themes. But does this instalment do enough after the inaugural episode's disappointing debut?
Well, that's a complicated question, as for some the premiere was really positively received. Even within Push Square Towers there have been heated debates about the quality of the release. This writer perhaps finds himself on the glass half-empty side, and as such, your humble host was hoping that Life Is Strange: Episode 2 – Out of Time would change his mind. And that's because, while the inaugural outing was bogged down by some of the most cringe-inducing dialogue this side of Resident Evil, there does seem to be promise here. But this second instalment still doesn't quite find it.
Indeed, outside of the last five-to-ten minutes, which are superb and very important, the episode seems willing and able to do a whole lot of nothing. Leading up to the climax, Max Caulfield, our teenage protagonist, continues to converse and interact with the group of characters that were introduced last time out, as well as get a firmer grasp and understanding of her incredible time-bending powers. Mercifully, these exchanges are not as laughably bad as last time out, as the goofy/cheesy dialogue has been toned down quite a lot. This allows the heavier subject matter – of which there's plenty – to sit more comfortably, as it's not surrounded by phrases like "for reals".
These aspects are still present, but they're much more tolerable this time around. The problem instead is that the content feels somewhat inconsequential this time out; the developer may be laying important groundwork for the future, but it all feels a little like a Damon Lindelof script at the moment, asking lots of questions without ever offering any real answers.
A section of the episode is spent with one of the series' better characters, Kate Marsh, and all of the time spent with her leads to a series of decisions as significant and nail biting as many of Telltale's biggest player choices. If that importance, or significance, could have been maintained for a larger portion of the two hour episode then maybe we'd be writing some different impressions here, but much of the running time feels inconsequential. Sure, individual episodes need to exist as part of a greater whole, but they also need to stand on their own.
Life Is Strange: Episode 2 – Out of Time has an excellent ending, but it's letdown by pacing issues that make the events leading up to that point feel inconsequential. There are a lot of interesting and engaging elements working in this release's favour, but it's yet to really pull them all together in a fulfilling manner. In some ways, this is an improvement – the dialogue's better for a start – but it really needs to step up soon. To use a tired baseball analogy, it's had two strikes now – one more and it's out.