Mixtape looks like it's going to do Life is Strange better than the new Life is Strange will

 Three rascal teenagers make their way up some stairs in a well-lit house in Mixtape.
Three rascal teenagers make their way up some stairs in a well-lit house in Mixtape.

I have a little birdhouse in my soul for Life is Strange—first released in 2015, it was a unique, narrative-driven game that was charming and fun enough for what it was. It also kinda pissed me off.

I'll try to keep why mostly spoiler-free, but essentially, the game gives you cosmic powers and then spends most of its runtime making you feel really bad about choosing to use them. There's some underlying "growing up is about making hard choices" stuff in there that I get, sure, but hard choices are for people who can't legitimately just fix everything with time magic.

It's like being given water powers the moment your friend's house is on fire, then being told that no, actually, trying to put that fire out was wrong. I like stories about dealing with a cruel and uncaring universe as much as the next guy, but the powers that be in the Life is Strange universe are just kind of capricious and cruel.

Anyway, I still liked it overall. I haven't been nearly as interested in its newer titles, and now it's getting a direct sequel (as revealed in the Xbox Games Showcase) in the form of Life is Strange: Double Exposure? I'm even less into it.

That's partly because it looks like they went for a different ending than I did—you know, the one where you just roll over and say, yeah, actually, I shouldn't have helped my best friend. Silly old me, you can have these time travel powers back now. It's also, admittedly, because Max is all grown up—and a lot of what charmed me about Life is Strange was the core conceit of 'awkward college years with superpowers'.

Mixtape, on the other hand, looks like it's going to be the game that I wanted Life is Strange to be.

The game's being developed by Beethoven & Dinosaur, who made The Artful Escape, and is getting published by Annapurna Interactive, which has thrown its weight behind games like The Outer Wilds and What Remains of Edith Finch.

Best I can tell from its debut trailer, Mixtape is a soundtrack-motivated narrative romp about skating with your friends and engaging in hooliganry, with a neat low-framerate aesthetic ala movies like Spider-Verse. As per a press release sent out to websites like our fine selves, it'll feature music from "DEVO, Roxy Music, Lush, The Smashing Pumpkins, Iggy Pop, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division, and more."

Honestly, I'm already far more excited about Mixtape than I am 'Life is Strange 2: Max suffers at the hands of a really spiteful universe some more' (I can only assume that was the working title). You might not be able to reverse time, but there's at least enough surrealist nonsense going on that I'm not going to miss it.

Mixtape also has a very clear dash of director Wes Anderson thrown in as inspiration, and listen: I know Anderson's work is sometimes used as a calling-card for pretentious uni students who have just really gotten into film, but I'm not going to pretend like The Grand Budapest Hotel wasn't one of my favourites. It's a welcome addition to the coming-of-age story powering this pretty-looking game.

Maybe I'm being unfair—maybe someone played Life is Strange and was really taken in by its secret desire to be a grimdark supernatural detective adventure where everything is horrible all the time. I, however, am excited to play a game with similar vibes that makes it a point to keep my best friends alive, probably.