Life is Strange games tend to lean on certain staples. There will always be a young adult, someone who is either a teenager or perhaps even in their early 20s. Someone will have supernatural powers. They will be dealing with serious issues in their life, with a murder potentially involved. The course of the story will involve learning to use their special abilities while dealing with this grave matter, coming to terms with themselves, and perhaps also finding love. Life is Strange: True Colors doesn’t deviate from the formula in any way, and in fact calls back more to the original game than before. But even though it is walking a familiar path, it does it well.
Alex spent years in the foster system, winding up in a group home. But she finally has a chance at a fresh start. She’s heading up to a small mining town called Haven Springs, where her brother Gabe lives. A promise of a job, family, and friends awaits. Especially since it is a place where people don’t know about her past—which since this is a Life is Strange game means she has extraordinary powers. Since she doesn’t know how to use this mix of empathy and psychic abilities that lets her sense others’ emotions, see why they’re feeling that way, and affect or use them to her advantage, it can mean yet another opportunity. However, soon after her arrival that stability is taken away and her brother is dead. She’ll now have to figure out what happened and forge a new path on her own.
What follows is a fairly typical adventure game. You’ll help Alex come to terms with her grief and her abilities. You guide her around her new home and help her form relationships. You make decisions that could help her find out happened to Gabe and what’s happening in the community. There’s a detective element to it even before Gabe’s death, with “cases” like “how do I get this cat to move?” And like other Life is Strange or The Walking Dead sorts of adventures, you’re constantly being reminded in the upper left corner that “This action will have consequences.”
In Life is Strange: True Colors, characters feel like they come first. Deck Nine does a lot to make sure its primary protagonists (and antagonistic folks) are well rounded individuals. They seem realistic. And lovable. And even annoying or distasteful. There’s a human quality to them, which makes the story more engaging. Even if you start seeing where things are going or pick up on plot elements before they come up, they’re enjoyable because the people involved gradually begin to matter to you.
Which means that Life is Strange: True Colors is good at pacing and ensuring you care about people. We get time with Gabe before the game’s Big Mystery happens. This lends weight to his death. We get a chance to understand why we should care about him. Likewise, people who missed Life is Strange: Before the Storm and didn’t meet Steph there have plenty of opportunities to get to know her here. You build a bond and see a relationship actually grow. People might not automatically embrace or trust Alex unless she (and the player) makes an effort. Actions matter and have consequences, and you feel the depth of that and like they make sense and offer changes, which is exactly what you want from an adventure game.
While the narrative elements and relationships are at the forefront and feel quite thoughtful, I did feel like Life is Strange: True Colors is a bit more focused on having a “moral” than other entries. I considered it Trust Falls: The Game sometimes, since building connections and perhaps having Alex take a chance on other people comes up a lot. Emotions aren’t bad is another, since everyone’s feeling something, her powers can read and tap into that, and she’s learning to keep herself grounded while dealing with others’ reactions. Also, “it’s okay to be happy” is another thought I often had while playing.
I also noticed is that Life is Strange: True Colors doesn’t run as well as I’d expect, especially on my PS4. I’m using a standard model and not a PS4 Pro. The frame rate is noticeably low, which Deck Nine confirmed is capped at 30fps. But if there are a lot of people around, which happens in a few scenes, it seems like it dips lower. When I began playing, I set the accessibility option that would cause power usage with a button tap, rather than a held button, yet it still required a hold. (Though going back to options, setting it to hold, resuming, then going in and setting it to tap fixed that.) There were texture pop-in issues. One of the first and most noticeable times with the Kings of Leon album close up when it is stationary on the record player. And in another segment, when Alex was comparing places in real life to a comic panel, there was a sudden flash of bright green during the transition between the comic and “real world” again. I also couldn’t see any of the world choices. All of these happened after the launch day update, mind you.
It is a shame, because even though these issues are present, Deck Nine clearly put thought into other technical nuances. Life is Strange: True Colors does a lot to accommodate issues people might have. You can alter the font, get more time to make decisions, have an option to skip QTE sorts of prompts. You can set things like jogging and using powers from holding buttons to tapping them. There are color blindness options for the aura colors. Brightness and sound warnings can be turned on too. It’s considerate in a way that vibes with the game’s overall themes.
When it comes down to it, Life is Strange: True Colors tells a good story, includes a strong cast of characters, and feels like a suitable successor in what is a reliable line of adventures that deal with tough topics. It has heart and people who enjoy adventure games and the series will likely fall in love with Alex, Steph, Ryan, and Haven Springs. If someone isn’t into the series though, it might not be the installment that changes their minds and makes them a fan.
Life is Strange: True Colors is available for the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PC, and Google Stadia. It will also come to the Nintendo Switch.