Life is Strange: True Colors review: A vivid spectrum of emotion

Square Enix
Square Enix /

Title: Life is Strange: True Colors
Developer: Deck Nine
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 (reviewed on), Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, Nintendo Switch, Google Stadia, PC
Release date: September 10, 2021

As previously discussed, in Life is Strange: True Colors you play as Alex Chen, a woman in her 20’s who…hold up. Forgot I need to do this.


Okay. Let’s try that again. In Life is Strange: True Colors you play as Alex Chen, a woman in her 20’s who after suffering an abusive home life, survived bouncing around the foster care system until becoming a legal adult and being reunited with her long lost brother in a tiny mining town in Colorado. Oh, and Alex Chen has mental powers too. Almost forgot that bit.

Many of Alex’s problems and difficulties with people stem from the fact that she’s a remarkably powerful empath. If people are really feeling some sort of way, she can see a glowing aura radiating from them. Whether that’s the burning red of anger, the tendril-filled purple of nervousness or the glowing brilliant gold of joy, you can see how a person is feeling regardless of whether they’re choosing to show it or not.

Life is Strange: True Colors
Square Enix /

If someone’s REALLY feeling something though, it can completely overtake Alex. Someone angry enough to want to fight will fill her with adrenaline. The imagination of a child can warp her perspective. The confusion of someone dealing with things like dementia can fill her world with a fog.

Over time, Alex meets people who are very important for her and, for the first time in a long time, she finds love, support and the strength to actually embrace the emotions of herself and those around her, which, in turn, all her a greater level of control over her abilities.

Life is Strange: True Colors
Square Enix /

As her powers develop she encounters new ways to use her abilities to help people and solve mysteries. She can make people enter a bit of a trance state where, in the moment, she can check the immediate environment for the emotional value stored in objects, learning more about the person. If she wants to, she can even choose to take an emotion from someone and you get to choose whether or not it’s right to hope someone can cope with what they’re dealing with or if you feel it’s okay to just remove the fear from them, taking that bit of their memories with it.

Added bonus, if you’re playing the game on the PS5 like I did, this game features incredible DualSense usage. When someone drinks with you, you feel your glasses clink together. When you’re scared, you feel it in the left trigger which you use to access your powers. It feels like genuine trembling. There was a part where the control shivered and the sensation made me shiver as well. If Alex is hesitant or scared to dig deeper into someone’s memories or a moment the control will even feel harder to pull down as if she’s pushing back against it.

Learning about the people in the town of Haven is an absolute joy too. In this tiny mining town, everyone has things that they’re struggling with and in learning about them and helping them, you come to love every one of them. Whether it’s the cool nerd I’m trying to romance or that local old guy, you learn so much about everyone in town and learn to care about each and every one of them. If you go that route, of course.

Like the Life is Strange games before it, True Colors features a wealth of choices. But unlike the past game, almost everything can affect someone or something. Inspecting your environment and looking at the things around you just because they seem interesting can unlock dialogue options later. Reading the emotions of random NPCs can help you discover information you may have missed. Some of the things that came back because of my early choices made me really feel like the world has been crafted based on my actions.

The way I played the game, I put myself in Alex’s shoes dead-on. I didn’t make choices based off “oh, I wonder what would happen if I did this.” I wasn’t experimental. I thought to myself, “I love this town, I love these people, what would I do in this situation.” By doing this, the characters around me treated me based on how I was acting. I helped an old lady remember something she was forgetting and, later, she had my back in a dispute. I got really into a LARP. The songs I played on the guitar got more upbeat. The people I enjoyed talking to more often started talking to me as well. I watched people’s lives change and the world evolved and I, much like Alex, felt home. Plus, puns are met with the appropriate tone that boosted the effect of the millions of dad jokes this game throws at you.

I genuinely want to live in this town. So much so that when I found out the town of Haven, Colorado had a real-life counterpart, I had to convince myself how bad an idea it would be. For real though, take a look at (40°27′13″N 105°26′56″W) and tell me it’s not based on Glen Haven. Especially when you look at places like that and then check the game itself.

Life is Strange: True Colors
Square Enix /

The game itself took me roughly about 20 hours to beat with me taking my time and embracing and trying to find everything I could — down to even the small things like doing dishes, weeding my garden, and getting the high score on the Black Lantern’s “Arkanoid” machine (a game I lost a lot of my allowance to back in the day).

The story itself is broken into five chapters with the fifth chapter being a moving series of events in which every choice you’ve made affects seemingly every minute. There are six core endings to the games but a ton of ways the background events can change as well. The moments you helped others, the mistakes you’ve made, all of it shows up. And those decisions weaponize themselves and hit you right in the heart.

All of it equates to a final act that, despite one really weird coincidence, felt incredible to play through. Deck Nine is just as masterful at building a gorgeous and complex house of cards as they are knocking that same house of cards into oblivion with the twists and turns the story takes.

Even more impressive than everything I’ve talked about, more so than the beautiful attention to detail — from every element and the excellent characters you encounter — is Alex herself. Alex Chen has quickly become one of my favorite protagonists in all of gaming and, upon beating the game, was heartbroken to know that my time with her was done. She had gotten everything out of life I had wanted for her and yet it felt like a part of me was removed when the credits started rolling and I realized I didn’t get to hang out with her anymore.

Plus, she has great taste in music.

10. It is rare when I find a game that tries to capture real people and nails it so well. Every aspect of Life is Strange: True Colors — from the dialogue to the characters to the paths they took — is real and vivid, and I fell in love with all of it almost immediately. If the ending doesn’t get people talking for the next several months, we’ve failed as a society because the entire final two chapters were impossible to look and walk away from. The game is an absolute gem and shouldn’t be overlooked.. Deck Nine. . Life is Strange: True Colors

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.