The Life is Strange franchise has become well established. Every game follows a young adult going through some kind of crisis and has a new superpower to help them through their crisis. Since the original, Life is Strange has turned from a classic episodic adventure story and built on that with a bold and overtly political narrative. True Colors is the latest entry in the growing anthology, and it once again features a troubled kid with special abilities who’s struggling to keep it together.
True Colors centers on Alex Chen, a 21-year-old who has spent nearly a decade bouncing around the foster care system. She bounced from family to facility and back again for over a decade before her brother, Gabe tracked her down and invited her to his new home of Haven Springs, an idyllic little village in Colorado. While it’s seemingly a peaceful-enough place to start a life, everything quickly does a 180 and a shocking death leads Alex down a rabbit hole of figuring out how it actually happened.
At its core, True Colors is a classic small town murder mystery, the kind where everyone seems like they could be a suspect once you dig in a little. Eventually, you’ll learn that there’s a sinister history to the place, including a powerful corporation with a strong hold on the town. What makes it feel distinctly like Life is Strange comes down to a combination of gameplay and tone. If you’ve never played any of these games before, they’re essentially interactive dramas, where you spend as much time watching events unfold as participating. Your interactions mostly come in two forms; making decisions and investigating. Often the game will present you with a binary choice that influences how the story plays out, or how other characters respond to Alex. There are even two possible romantic combinations to go for.
The story is not all about solving a suspicious death. True Colors allows you to enjoy your time around the town as you uncover the truth. When you are not making split second decisions, you are down by the dock contemplating life. You are able to linger as needed between the other characters and moments so that you can paint a better picture on what is happening.
Alex isn’t without help in her quest for justice either. Alex’s empathic power allows her to see someone’s aura. She can sense how someone is feeling by looking at the emotions that surround them and then use that to understand them better. This can lead to several different outcomes. Sometimes, she’s able to change someone’s emotional state by saying or doing the right thing; other times she can use that information to help people in more practical ways.
True Colors also does an incredible job when it comes to pacing and tone. There are times when the action is so fast, and you have to make a hard decision in a split second, that my heart was truly racing. In other moments you can just lounge around on a dock thinking about life. The game lets you linger when needed, both with moments and characters, so you can fully understand them. Things also get incredibly dark, particularly in the later chapters, when Alex is forced to confront the innermost conflicts of both her friends and herself.
True Colors has a few hiccups on the Switch. Compared to other consoles, True Colors is a stunning game with a beautiful world to explore in. The world becomes blurred and sometimes frames go missing as you move through it. When docked the issues became less noticeable. However, if you play it undocked, the issues become more consistent. This did not stop me from falling in love with this game and the narrative surrounding it.
One great addition this game brings is that it was not released in segments. The series has been episodic since the beginning: each new entry is divided into chapters, which are then released periodically every month or so. It’s a great idea, but the realities of game development often meant there were huge gaps between episodes, making it hard for the story to maintain momentum. In True Colors, this is no longer the case; all five chapters are being released at once, and the story benefits from this kind of close connection where you can see the ramifications of your choices without struggling to remember what happened last time.
True Colors is a fantastic addition to the series; a gripping narrative that will keep the blood flowing mixed with new powers that make this one stick out. The characters are well developed, fleshed out, and bring a great sense of involvement to the plot. The performance of the Switch was the weakest part of True Colors, but even so, I would still highly recommend Life is Strange: True Colors.