You’re Gonna Carry That Weight
HIGH A profound and beautiful ending that’s unlike anything else all year.
LOW Mulling over decisions I made at four in the morning.
WTF Crying my eyes out to Dido’s Thank You while writing this review.
I’m genuinely unhappy most of the time. There’s no way to beat around that bush there — I simply don’t feel great most days.
Plenty of the reviews I’ve written for GameCritics sound like not-so-thinly veiled cries for help, whether they’re about looking for work, my frustrations as a minority in the industry, or… about anything else, really. Sure, maybe using a public outlet to air these complex, dark feelings isn’t the healthiest way to go, but writing is the best kind of therapy until I can afford real therapy. In a way, I feel like I’m carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, which is something that the characters in Life is Strange: True Colors can relate to.
In this latest series entry, players control Alex Chen, a young woman leaving foster care after her older brother, Gabe, has sent for her. The siblings haven’t seen each other in eight years and meet in Gabe’s new home of Haven, a fictional town in Colorado. Alex slowly grows accustomed to small-town living while dealing with the emotional baggage she carries.
True Colors follows the established LiS formula closely. Players navigate Haven from a third-person perspective, controlling Alex as she explores places of interest and speaks to characters she meets. It’s an adventure about talking to people, solving the occasional puzzle, and making tough choices that affect how the story plays out. Also common to LiS as a series is that each main character has some sort of power — it’s the driving element that moves plots forward and kicks everything into gear.
In this case, Alex has psychic powers that allow her to feel other people’s emotions. This is represented by a glowing aura around NPCs. At the click of the right trigger, I was able to interact and see what people were feeling, ranging from things like lamenting the loss of a loved one, the anxiety of a first date, or even someone trying hard to find a rare bird for a contest. Being able to feel for others in this way was nice, though the main storyline is where Alex’s empathic powers are best used as she investigates the circumstances surrounding someone’s death.
As she talks to people who knew the deceased, some of the interactions are quite emotional. In one notable case, a character had dementia. While it takes a bit for this to be revealed, the visual representation of the condition was surreal. Words were jumbled up, numbers on a rotary phone were missing, and the internal monologue was about being a burden on family. Alex feels all of this (and more) on an intimate level, struggling to help in any way she can.
Each chapter usually ends with a major choice that affects the plot later, but the decisions I made in True Colors stayed with me more than any other game, causing me to mull it all over for weeks after finishing.
“Did I really want to do this?”
“Did the tone of my voice give the wrong impression?”
“Oh shit, how badly did I mess up this character’s life?”
Variations of these phrases would play in my head whenever I wasn’t playing. I remembered every interaction and tried to justify everything with the goal of making sure everyone was happy. Obviously, my attempts didn’t pan out all the time, but no matter what happened, I was in love with almost everything that True Colors threw at me.
The writing and presentation are what really make this game special. Alex feels like a real person, as do the other folks in Haven. Two companions, Steph and Ryan, join Alex, and as the story progresses, players get to know (and potentially date one of them) by the end of the game. Every character is fully-fleshed out with their own problems, motivations, and complex emotions. The ensemble cast is among the best thanks to committed performances from the voice actors, as well as some excellent motion capture. I especially loved how everyone had mannerisms or facial tics that made them feel real.
While the story goes to some dark places, the overall theme of community and hopefulness remains present. Alex is a character who’s endured a lot of pain and heartbreak, but there’s a clear message here about letting go and opening up to others. In a way, it’s comforting — aside from all the other things I enjoyed, what’s really going to stick with me is the lesson I learned once the credits rolled.
I am someone who is carrying as much emotional baggage as Alex, if not more. The last few years have been marred by emotional and mental health issues, weight gain, and persistent anger — at others, and at myself. I feel like I’m drowning in these emotions most of the time, but True Colors taught me that it’s okay to let go. Resentment is unhealthy and I can’t enjoy the future if I’m unwilling to let go of the past. I shouldn’t dwell on what could have been, and instead I can allow time to bring healing. The problems I have now will eventually be an afterthought.
Life is Strange: True Colors is a technically brilliant and emotionally-driven masterpiece, providing a compelling narrative wrapped around some of the best choice-based gameplay I’ve experienced in years. It also made me reflect on what my life can be if I just take a minute to let go, which isn’t something I can say about many other pieces of art or media.
If a videogame like this can make me a better person, I think that’s worth celebrating.
Disclosures: This game is published by Square Enix and developed by Deck Nine. It is available on PS4, PS5, XBX/S/O, Switch, and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS5. Approximately 10 hours were spent in the single-player and the game was completed. There is no multiplayer.
Parents: According to the ESRB this game is rated M for Blood, Drug Reference, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violence. The site reads: This is an adventure game in which players follow the story of a young adult (Alex) trying to manage her empathic powers while solving a mystery in a Colorado town. From a third-person perspective, players explore various locations in town and interact with townspeople. Cutscenes depict some instances of violence: a man punching and kicking another character; a man shooting a character; a woman punching a character in the face repeatedly—Blood sometimes appears on characters’ knuckles and/or faces. The dialogue contains some suggestive references (e.g., “You know dudes can do nice things without the expectation of getting laid, right”; “Maybe Diane and I still hook up”; “…I thought you were f**king my girlfriend!!”). Some sequences allow players’ character to drink shots of alcohol or cans of beer, and one sequence depicts a drinking game in a bar. The town contains a marijuana dispensary; both marijuana and paraphernalia are visible when talking to characters in the shop. The words “f**k,” “sh*t,” and “a*shole” appear in the dialogue.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Subtitles and on-screen instructions can be adjusted and audio is not needed to enjoy this game, thanks to the abundance of visual cues. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No the controls are not remappable but there is a control diagram.
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“Plenty of the reviews I’ve written for GameCritics sound like not-so-thinly veiled cries for help” I don’t think they come across this way. At least, I think your willingness to honestly express your dispositions, and the way games make you feel and think, just show you to be someone aware of your own feelings and state of mind, and someone who’s neither ashamed to feel what they feel or to talk about it. It’s appreciated. Too many people cry about wanting “objectivity” in reviews, but the level of subjectivity to delve into is much appreciated. I am glad to know… Read more »
This was such a nice comment to read! I am really glad you enjoyed the review. I always worry if I’m being too sentimental or dumping way too much trauma into these reviews, but I’m happy to see that people dig something a bit more raw and honest.