Life is Strange is one of those games that come out of nowhere and instantly become a hit. It’s listed as a ‘Graphic Adventure’ and is similar to ‘visual novel’ like Steins;Gate which though is popular, isn’t popular in North America except for small niches of anime fans and because of that it isn’t exactly sought after in the mainstream.
Set in a real world college-ish environment which makes it a bit more unique because it’s peppered with the extreme’s of college life, no matter how taboo. You’re also allowed to progress the story along using branching options but here you’re also given the opportunity to fix any choice you’ve made; thanks to the time rewind mechanic, that is exactly what we’ll be covering.
You see the time rewind mechanic allows you to go backwards in time, making any adjustments you want. Say you took too long to start certain actions as is the case in the beginning of the game when you need paint to splatter on Rachel or using it to rewind time because you accidentally made a choice that didn’t give you the results you wanted. This plays directly into our psychology where a lot of us are filled with regret. Of course regret is a main part of life, you have to make choices whether you like it or not and sometimes the choice you’ve made left you feeling like you should’ve went the other way.
The rewind feature made sure that if you did regret your action you would be able to go the other way. It’s literally the big ‘if’ question, ‘if you could, would you go back in time to kill Hitler’ thereby creating a grandfather paradox. We of course don’t get that same level of impact in the game but still, the feelings we experience are still the same.
Now was Life is Strange the first game to implement this mechanic? Not at all, the earliest example I found was from a Japanese game in the 90s called Catrap. a there you use the mechanic to rewind time in order to fix any mistakes you’ve made in trying to solve the puzzle. From there it becomes more widely implemented but the difference from those games and this game is that time rewind is used to fix problems but in a different way like I the case of Prince of Persia and Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle.
Prince of Persia uses the consumable sands to rewind time provided he has enough of it stored up. Here it allows you to rewind if you missed and fell to your death or if you made a mistake during a fight and are about to be killed you can rewind a bit to correct it.
Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle allows you rewind back one move without limit up to the start of the level. This method allows you to rewind if you made an accidental move or saw the right move during the wrong move.
Both examples have no effect on the story progression.
The Prince of Persia and Killer Puzzle story’s can never be altered due to time rewind but in the case of Life is Strange it can. This use of time rewind is what is incredible, allowing players to go back in time (to a point) and repeat conversations that they made a mistake in or rewinding to fix a mistake you made which soft blocked the story.
This is similar to what Fire Emblem is known for, permadeath which like the time rewind mechanic has been around for a long, long time but because it was altered for FE it became a unique core mechanic.
Time rewind in Life is Strange is so pivotal and was clearly made to work with the gameplay it is its own unique core mechanic.
People love the story, characters and narrative but in my opinion the time rewind had a lot to do with making that possible.
So to sum up, time rewind is not new by any measurement, it’s at least 30 years old but what the developers did was modify time rewind to ‘work’ perfectly ‘with’ Life is Strange. It’s what made an old mechanic, a unique mechanic and something that I reckon, if taken out, would guarantee Life is Strange feeling truly incomplete.
- Blake, V. (2019). Steins;Gate Elite review — a must-have for fans, a maybe for everyone else. Retrieved 20 July 2019, from https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2019-03-01-steins-gate-elite-review-a-must-have-for-fans-a-maybe-for-everyone-else
- Craigg, O. (2018). Life is Strange review: Still a (mostly) hella good time on Android. Retrieved 20 July 2019, from https://www.androidauthority.com/life-is-strange-review-android-895750/
- Eisenbeis, R. (2014). Steins;Gate: The Kotaku Review. Retrieved 20 July 2019, from https://kotaku.com/steins-gate-the-kotaku-review-1559811854
- Frank, A. (2018). Life is Strange’s comic sequel seems made for Max and Chloe ’shippers. Retrieved 20 July 2019, from https://www.polygon.com/comics/2018/11/9/18075248/life-is-strange-comic-issue-one-review-release-date
- Grandfather paradox. Retrieved 20 July 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grandfather_paradox
- Greenberg, M. (2012). The Psychology of Regret. Retrieved 20 July 2019, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201205/the-psychology-regret