Editor’s Note: The Kid-Friendly Review Series is a bit different than our usual reviews in that they are all-encompassing instead of our usual focused reviews. Because of this, nothing will be scored, as we are not comfortable rating features we don’t rely on. Instead, we will simply note potential problem areas and leave it for parents to decide for themselves if the game is playable for their child.
Game reviewed on Xbox One
Life is Strange 2 is set after the events of Life is Strange (2015), with a brand new setting and cast of characters in this multi-episode story-driven adventure game. After a tragic accident in which 9-year-old Daniel Diaz reveals a newfound ability for telekinetic powers, his older brother Sean Diaz flees with him to try and find safety in their father’s home of Mexico. You play as Sean as he travels through the US, trying to keep himself and Daniel safe as runaways in a politically tense environment.
Between episodes 1 and 2 you are strongly encouraged to play The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, a free episode that was released as a promotional demo for Life is Strange 2. This episode is optional, but your choices do carry over into the game, so I will briefly comment on it.
Life is Strange 2 is described here as a “teen friendly” game rather than “kid friendly”, and is recommended for mature teenagers only, as it may be distressing for younger or less emotionally mature players. The game explores mature content, including police brutality, hate crimes, and religious abuse.
Life is Strange 2 thankfully builds on its predecessor, taking its clear, easy to read subtitles in variable sizes, and adding optional speaker labels for additional clarity.
Unfortunately, there are still no subtitles for music or sound effects. While the style of gameplay means unsubtitled sound effects may not create barriers to gameplay in the way it might a first-person shooter, part of communicating the story and atmosphere to the player is absent.
Having been released between the two games, Captain Spirit does not have these speaker labels, much like the original Life is Strange, but still has large, clear subtitles.
In lieu of time travel puzzles, Life is Strange 2 introduces more physicality in its gameplay, as the Diaz brothers traverse the roads of America. This is often expressed through button mashing segments at times of extreme effort, which can be replaced with a long-press through an option in the main menu.
Toggling off button mashing and vibration are the main accessibility options available from the settings menu. Importantly, key remapping is not an option on consoles (or with the gamepad on PC).
Episode 3 introduces some one-off minigames that don’t appear again, one of which is a lengthy and repetitive timing-based segment cutting marijuana buds to size. You can’t truly “fail” these minigames, as doing them poorly will still take you to the end of the segment and progress the game. However, some players may find themselves frustrated while the game offers prompts to ‘correct’ their actions during the gameplay equivalent of a lengthy rub-your-belly-and-pat-your-head exercise, as timed dialogue choices also pop up during this section.
Some dialogue options can now ‘time out’ for players who aren’t quick enough to choose an option. This is an accessibility failure across the board, failing players who can’t navigate between options so quickly, as well as players who can’t process text quickly for cognitive reasons as well as vision reasons. If the dialogue times out, it’s interpreted as a distinct “chose not to speak” option, forcing some disabled players down a particular conversational path that they may not have taken given the choice.
Scattered throughout the game are meditative moments where Sean can sit and draw. These sections require you to repeatedly tap the left analogue stick in all directions while the drawing fills in, from outline to completed sketch. While physically awkward for some players, these sections are entirely optional, and can be skipped once started — achievement hunters only need to start the drawing to count.
Captain Spirit doesn’t include these additional gameplay sections, though you are able to optionally play the in-universe mobile game ‘Hawt Dawg Man: Mustard Party 2’, a side scrolling endless runner with mustard-powered jetpacks.
Blind/Low Vision and Colorblind Accessibility
I was pleased to note the original Life is Strange highlighted and clearly labelled its interactable objects, but the sequel takes a step back from this level of visual indication. Objects are still labelled, but no longer highlighted with cross-hatching. The label lines are broken, making them easier to lose against busy or low-contrast backgrounds. As a result, objects you can interact with may be less immediately obvious to players with low vision.
Superpower options for Daniel (or Chris, in Captain Spirit) are highlighted in comic book “pow!”-style blue outlines and pink zigzags. Even without the colour information, there’s an indicative change in shape.
In-game text is always black over off-white, and a moderate size by default, though it could stand to be bigger. There is a settings option for larger in-game text, but toggling it on and off I couldn’t see any difference. Compared to the great variety of text size options in the subtitles, the in-game text size appears to be fixed.
Captain Spirit doesn’t have this option, but given the implementation that isn’t saying much.
Life is Strange 2 shares a lot of the same strengths as the previous game, including access to the full control scheme with context at any time from the pause menu. The fictionalised episode recaps — the story of the wolf brothers — are a nice touch for bringing players back up to speed in a way that feels in keeping with the story of the Diaz brothers’ relationship. The straightforward choice recaps are still available from the main menu, as well as the fictionalised in-episode journals and objective prompts available from the pause screen.
While Life is Strange 2 hasn’t changed anything in terms of its directional UI — players are still left to navigate on their own terms, with no indicators of any kind — the individual maps are (for the most part) better designed to not turn players around or disorient them.It should be said that Life is Strange 2 is a very different game to the one that came before it, and players who struggled with the first game may well find themselves following the Diaz brothers on their journey with ease. Progress through the game no longer being gated by solving puzzles or beating minigames opens up the story to a greater number of people, and improved clarity in subtitles is a meaningful improvement for Deaf/HoH players. It’s a shame that keybinding remains a sticking point where other steps forward to improve accessibility have been taken, and more so that players with low vision or blindness may find that their access to the game has decreased entirely.