Today the duck and I want to write about Life Is Strange and pancakes. For those of you who haven’t played Life Is Strange yet (though it feels like the duck and I were the last ones) and wonder why we put those two things together, I should add that the mother of one of the characters works at a diner and that all the mentions of breakfast foods in this game made us crave pancakes a lot.
The duck and I like video games, but we wouldn’t call ourselves avid players because sometimes we’re too lazy to play, afraid that we get obsessed and do nothing else but play, or simply don’t have a game console around. But when two individual friends (which is a lot since most of our friends don’t even know that we enjoy the occasional video game) told us that we just had to play Life Is Strange last year because it’s ‘so you,’ the duck and I knew that there was no way around it, especially since we like games with a solid story:
Life is strange
As is our relationship with pancakes! I mentioned before that the duck and I aren’t huge fans of American-style pancakes. Yet, we were craving them when we were playing Life Is Strange. Because we like making simple two-ingredient banana pancakes but thought that they were too simple for this post, we looked online for a slightly fancier-looking banana pancake recipe. The one we found asked for some banana, an egg, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, and vanilla-flavored protein powder. We had an unopened box of said powder catching dust on a pantry shelf, so this was the perfect opportunity to open it. To be extra fancy, we decided to add some blueberries, as well.
Life Is Strange is an episodic choice-based video game that follows photography student Max Caulfield as she rediscovers her hometown Arcadia Bay and finds out that she can rewind time. The first of five episodes begins with a heavy storm by a lighthouse which turns out to be a nightmare that Max has in the middle of a photography class instructed by the esteemed photographer and subject of most of Max’s fangirling, Mark Jefferson, about a month after she started studying and living at the prestigious Blackwell Academy. From Max’s diary, you learn about her first weeks at the new school, some of her dorm- and classmates, and that she hasn’t yet gotten in touch with her childhood best friend Chloe, whom she had lost contact with soon after moving to Seattle five years ago.
From the recipe, we learned that, first, we were to separate the egg. When we failed, we should have taken that as a sign to stop what we were doing and prepare something else. Instead, we used our imaginary rewind powers and salvaged the egg yolk that we then put aside while beating the egg white.
When we first started playing Life Is Strange, we thought that Max – mainly the way she interacted with things – was a bit annoying. I then remembered that one of the recommendations came with the remark that Max was so much like me. I cried. The duck literally rolled on the floor laughing. The more we played, however, the more I accepted Max (and thus the fact that I am annoying sometimes). Overall, the duck and I think that most of the characters are well written and that, apart from a few exceptions, it’s not hard to empathize with them as you learn more about their particular circumstances. That’s one of the reasons we enjoyed playing this game so much: Like in real life, most people aren’t simply good or bad; everyone has their flaws and tries their best to navigate the world or make it through high school unscathed.
Our flaw was being too optimistic about this recipe. When we added the remaining ingredients to the egg yolk, the protein powder’s intense artificial vanilla smell could have alarmed us, but we weren’t ready to let go of our optimism just yet.
When we saw that the game didn’t rely on fast reflexes (because, as mentioned before, ours only work for catching food) but on exploring, the duck and I were optimistic that we’d be able to finish it. Max explores by walking around specific areas of Arcadia Bay and interacting with people and objects. The coolest thing is that thanks to Max’s rewind powers, hardly any choices are final (at least until you progress to a new area or cutscene). Sometimes you even have to rewind time after finding a piece of information so that you can use it to your advantage and progress the story. The duck and I tend to be a bit overwhelmed with open-world games (we’re compulsive completionists), so we loved that the world in Life Is Strange is so manageable; trying to talk with everyone and interacting with everything only adds a few extra hours to your overall playtime.
The duck and I were a bit overwhelmed when we used a hand mixer to combine all the ingredients in the bowl: the smell was even weirder now. After we were left with a firm batter that looked a lot like cookie dough, we folded in the whisked, fluffy egg white little by little.
Little by little, the duck and my appreciation for this game grew. The main reason probably was that we love the atmosphere; we like the realistic production design that presents a world that is being lived in by a variety of characters with different tastes and backgrounds. Chloe’s home, for example, is a great representation of a working-class family home with a mix of outdated furniture and items that have been upgraded throughout the years; her room actually looks like she grew up in it. Of course, we love how the atmosphere changes as the day progresses and that you get to explore parts of Arcadia Bay during the golden hour! All this is amplified by the amazing soundtrack. The original score by Jonathan Morali adds a certain beauty, especially to some of the run-down locales you get to explore. The fantastic selection of licensed tracks that mainly appear as part of the game’s diegetic soundtrack complements its overall tone and characterizes whoever is listening to a certain track within the game.
The duck and I thought that the blueberries would complement the original recipe. So, we added some to our mountain of artificial vanilla and hoped for an improved taste and enhanced fruitiness. While I heated the pan, the duck waddled to the other side of the room to look from afar.
After starting the second episode, the duck and I had to take a little break from playing because we were getting busy. When we came back a few months later, we were grateful for Max’s journal that you can access anytime in the game. In her diary, you can see her take on what has happened up to that point. There’s also a tab that features Max’s descriptions of major characters, a log of the posters etc. you have looked at throughout the game, her phone that you receive text messages on, and my favorite feature: a compilation of Polaroid pictures that you can win trophies/achievements for if you take them at the right moment in the game. You get hints in the shape of line art that often only makes complete sense once the photo opportunity presents itself. With all the different goings-on in Arcadia Bay, I don’t think that the duck and I would have managed to keep track of everything otherwise.
With all those unusual ingredients, the duck and I didn’t expect the pancakes to actually look like pancakes. But after dividing the batter into four relatively equally sized heaps and baking them in the pan for a few minutes, they somehow did. They were tiny, though.
Life Is Strange is a beautiful game, especially if you’re as much of a sucker for (fake) photography, pretty sunlight, elaborate production design, and a heavy focus on story (this is one of those games that feel like an interactive movie that you get to pause and explore for a while) as the duck and I are. However, not everything in Life Is Strange is sunshine and butterflies! Max is confronted with a bunch of serious topics which is why this game has an age rating of 16/17+. If you haven’t played Life Is Strange and are considering it, I highly recommend doing an internet search for possible triggers beforehand because the first few minutes of the game don’t fully indicate in which direction the story will develop. If you are okay with mentions and/or depictions (sometimes that depends on your in-game choices) of all the topics listed in the trigger warnings, prepare for an adventure truly worthy of its title.
If you are not okay with tiny stacks of smelly pancakes, try drenching them in maple syrup and adorning them with some fruit. Since the pancakes still looked dry and smelled very artificial after the maple syrup treatment, we also poured ourselves a fresh cup of orange juice.
After taking the first bite, we were happy that we did! I think our powder-banana-ratio must have been off because there’s no way pancakes are supposed to be this dry. I might also not have learned from recent mistakes and added too much salt again. The main culprit, however, was the protein powder. Those pancakes must have been the worst both the duck and I have ever eaten! This shows that even if you have a nice-looking recipe to work with, there is always lots of room for mistakes, especially when it comes to the selection of ingredients. At least we haven’t craved pancakes since. We still have to find out what to do about that box of leftover smelly protein powder, though.
When we found out there’s a three-episode prequel to Life Is Strange called Before the Storm, the duck and I couldn’t wait to play it. Even though the game doesn’t feature Max’s rewind powers, the duck and I loved playing as Chloe, especially when it came to the tabletop game adventure she embarks on with two of her schoolmates. We liked the prequel just as much as the original, if not more (we felt like this game had a stronger focus on characters, which we like).
This post, however, is about how Life Is Strange is, despite us having needed a lot of time to get used to Max, the best video game recommendation we have received. We loved exploring the world that Max and Chloe live in. Even though we did find it a bit cheesy or unnecessarily extreme at some points, we loved how the story unfolded and, having gone into this without any expectations (except that we would probably like Life Is Strange because it had been so insistently recommended to us), we were pleasantly surprised by how invested we were. If you haven’t played Life Is Strange yet and aren’t worried about the triggers, the duck and I highly recommend you check it out!
We want to conclude this post with a newfound sentiment (and more suitable blog post title): Pancakes is strange.