Following the release of Life is Strange: True Colors, a DLC for the game titled Life is Strange: Wavelengths has been released. The game serves as a slightly longer than usual extra episode that focuses on Steph Gringrich, a music-loving punk girl who is new to Haven. Steph works at KRCT, which is Haven’s local radio station cozily nested inside a record store. With Haven being a small town, KRCT does not have a wide reach. However, as this review reveals, this does not stop Wavelengths from having fun with things and being another good addition to the Life is Strange series.
The game does not add much in terms of narrative. Instead, it serves as an interesting character study of Steph, allowing you to see how she adapted to the quiet town of Haven, coped with the events of her past, and found friendship in a particularly nasty cat. It is not an integral part of the Life is Strange experience by any measure, but it is a fun and welcome addition nevertheless.
Life is Strange: Wavelengths is available for purchase on PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC. A Nintendo Switch port is also on the way.
Story – A Slice of Life
Wavelengths takes place before the events of Life is Strange: True Colors. Steph has left her beloved band and has moved to Haven to begin a new chapter of her life. The appearance of Steph is a treat for long-time fans who will be familiar with her backstory, her connection to Arcadia Bay, and the characters there.
There are plenty of references to the first game sprinkled throughout Wavelengths, some of them pleasant and others a little more bittersweet. For anyone who has been following the series for a long time, it will all be greatly appreciated, as it shows how the events in Arcadia Bay affect a character like Steph in a very real way.
After settling in Haven, Steph takes up a job as the local radio DJ. The job also involves her running the record store the radio booth is located in. As someone who loves music, the job is a comfortable one for Steph, although it can get lonely for her working there alone.
Unlike Life is Strange: True Colors which focuses on a central narrative, Wavelengths instead feels more like a slice-of-life story that is more invested in letting you sink into the daily routine of Steph’s job. The emotional highs and lows of the story come in the form of the touching and sometimes intense moments Steph has with old friends and sometimes when she is all alone in the record store.
Such moments occur, for instance, when Steph reunites with Mikey, who is an old friend of hers. They are both fans of DnD. While Steph does occasionally neglect him, Mikey’s loyalty to her never falters. When they finally do have an internet-assisted DnD session, they share emotions in a very heartfelt way.
While Wavelengths might feel a bit empty and excessively muted to some, the simplicity of the story will be comforting to others. Perhaps where the story does truly fall flat is with the ending which, while it does link nicely to the beginning of Life is Strange: True Colors, did feel considerably underwhelming.
Gameplay – DJ Simulator
Wavelengths is the DLC to Life is Strange: True Colors. Hence, it will feel like a familiar return home for anyone who loved True Colors. However, Wavelengths maintains for itself a much narrower scope, limiting you to the record store. It never feels claustrophobic because the store is alive with minor details to draw your attention. There are also plenty of objects in the environment to interact with.
As time progresses, the decorations and items present around the record store will also change, allowing the setting to feel dynamic and lived in. Furthermore, you also gain access to the record store’s backroom which opens up further avenues for exploration.
Gameplay does not deviate from the standard Life is Strange formula too much. For the bulk of the game, you will be exploring your setting and interacting with objects you come across. You will also be solving little riddles and environmental puzzles that are never too cognitively demanding but are nevertheless fun to solve.
Although Wavelengths does have all these features that have come to characterize Life is Strange titles, the game does quite a bit to separate itself from the crowd and forge its own identity.
The most noticeable quirk of Wavelengths is that Steph has no superpowers. Previous titles in the series have dipped their toes into the idea of not having superpowers for the player to toy with. Life is Strange: Before the Storm, another title developed by Deck Nine Games, stars Chloe, who is a girl with no powers except for her startling talent for backchatting. While backchatting is not a superpower in the strictest sense, it functions similarly enough in-game to serve as a suitable replacement.
Wavelengths offers no such bargains and instead simply presents Steph as a character with no superpowers or skills that resemble superpowers. While this succeeds in making Steph a more down-to-Earth and relatable girl, it does make the game feel like it is missing that special ingredient that makes Life is Strange games so unique.
When you are not exploring the record store, you get to play as a DJ on KRCT. This involves choosing what music to play, taking phone calls from the lovely folks of Haven, and reading advertisements. It is a lot of busywork, but it is also fun once you get the hang of things. The radio booth segments provide an amusing way to find out more about the inhabitants of Haven and jam out to the smooth indie soundtrack provided. There is also the opportunity to make nail-biting decisions whenever you get calls asking for advice about love, life, and a host of other topics that probably should not be posed to a radio DJ. It is in the radio booth where Steph unwinds, and where Wavelengths provides memorable moments.
Steph’s love life plays a significant role in the game’s plot, and this theme also finds a way to wriggle itself into gameplay. This comes in the form of a dating app that can be accessed from Steph’s phone. Here you have the option to scroll through a bevy of single women in the area and decide who will be best for Steph. Whether Steph messages as many as possible or simply rejects them all is up to you.
Fiddling around with the dating app is unexpectedly fun. There is a myriad of profiles to choose from, and the messaging options available after you match with someone branch impressively. It can often feel like you are having a conversation with a real person as you try to rekindle the flame in Steph’s love life.
Graphics and Audio – More of the Same
The visual tone of Wavelengths carries over from Life is Strange: True Colors. Like before, the character models maintain a cartoonish art style while the facial animations remain impeccably capable of rendering expressions. Little details like sweat on Steph’s face during the hot June months really show how far visuals in the series have come.
Although Wavelengths restricts itself to the record store, the setting never feels dull because it is constantly changing. Whether it is rainbow flags during pride month, or mistletoe during the festive season, the record store never looks the same for too long.
As is to be expected from the series, music is prominent in the game. As a DJ, you get to pick what goes out on the airwaves. The selection is a mostly indie affair and even if you do not recognize many of the names, there is sure to be something for everyone.
The soft visuals, together with the laidback indie soundtrack, come together to make the record store a comfortable place to spend your brief playthrough of Wavelengths. It is not a title that aims to dazzle, but rather to draw you in with its inviting atmosphere.
Life is Strange: Wavelengths was reviewed on PS5.