Given the critical and commercial success enjoyed by Life is Strange back in 2015, creating a compelling direct sequel can’t have been easy for developer Dontnod. Yet just three years later, players were surprised with a brand new story that was every bit as emotionally affecting as the first, if not more so. It boasts a plot that was both intimate yet grand in scope, taking two core protagonists on a road trip from hell after a tragedy tears them from their comfortable home life. In 2023, though, as the last main part of the Life is Strange puzzle to come to Switch, does the game still hold up? Well, yes… mostly.
Life is Strange 2 for the Switch contains all five episodes that were originally released over a staggered period of time back in 2019, as you would hope. Each episode will last you a couple of hours or so, so you’re looking at roughly 10-12 hours to complete the whole package, give or take. It uses that time pretty effectively, using the episodic structure to maintain a decent sense of pace throughout.
As mentioned, the story focuses on Sean Diaz and Daniel Diaz, two brothers who live an altogether normal life in the suburbs of Seattle. After a brief introductory segment, a tragedy strikes which drives the siblings away from their home while simultaneously revealing to the player the latent kinetic powers that the younger brother Daniel appears to be harbouring. It’s a strong opening that communicates well the stark contrast between life before and after the events that send the brothers on the long and winding road.
From there, Daniel and Sean cross down from Washington to the state of Oregon, meeting a host of characters both friendly and sinister along the way. Overall, the narrative is markedly stronger than that of Life is Strange and Before the Storm, showcasing scenes that are filled with action and tension while balancing this nicely with moments of quiet reflection. It helps that the player isn’t locked into one core location (that being Arcadia Bay from the first game) too, instead moving from one area to the next without pausing for too long in one spot.
In terms of gameplay, Life is Strange 2 plays almost exactly like its predecessor, for better or worse. In true adventure game fashion, the gameplay segments mostly require you to navigate around a small area and interact with the objects littered about the environment. It’s simple and there’s little real challenge involved here, but we do wish that Dontnod showed a bit of restraint with the sheer amount of objects you can interact with.
It’s borderline absurd in some areas: you can pick up some fresh sheets, look at the TV, turn on a tap, switch on a light, throw a rock, sketch the room… We could go on. We admire the ambition here, but we wish the devs gave players a bit more guidance as to which items you actually need to interact with in order to advance the story, rather than relying on trial and error.
Where the game really shines is in the multitude of dialogue choices that it presents to you throughout. These range from the benign to the life-altering, and it’s a true joy to go back and see exactly how the story changes if you opt for a different branch. At the end of each episode, Life is Strange 2 also gives you a breakdown of your key choices during the experience, which serves as a nice reminder if anything happens to slip your mind at a later point.
Looking at the overall presentation on Switch, the game is a noticeable improvement over the Arcadia Bay Collection, but still not quite on par with True Colors. Initial load times are still ridiculous, lasting for upwards of a full minute, but thankfully the game handles scene transitions a bit better, making for a largely seamless experience once you’ve got it all booted up for the first time. Visuals are pleasant, for the most part, with particular attention paid to the character designs and animations, though the environments suffer from a lack of detail, particularly in more natural areas like forests or seafronts. It’s to be expected, we suppose, but it’s at least not quite as jarring as the Arcadia Bay Collection.
Frame rate is largely the same as the prior Switch games in the series, remaining stable for the most part, yet certainly nothing to write home about. The audio is excellent, too, including exceptional voice acting (bar a few understandably grating outbursts from the younger Diaz sibling) and excellent use of music throughout. All in all, if the Switch is the only way you’re able to play Life is Strange 2, then you’re going to get a pretty solid experience out of it from a technical standpoint.
Life is Strange 2 is a worthy entry in the narrative series that improves upon the first game in meaningful ways with a story that’s both thrilling and emotional. The gameplay hasn’t changed much and we’d argue that some areas have a few too many objects to interact with, but the dialogue choices remain just as fun as ever. Bar some annoying load times on Switch and some visual hiccups, Life is Strange 2 is definitely worth picking up if you’re a fan of narrative adventures.