Max's time travel abilities are a key element of Life is Strange whose discovery sets off the events of the game. Likely triggered by the shocking experience of seeing Chloe Price get shot in the girls' bathroom at Blackwell Academy, Max Caulfield's power manifests for the very first time in Episode 1 as she jumps back into Mark Jefferson's classroom and then discovers she can rewind time. Throughout the game's events, her powers develop and manifest in various ways; she has visions of the future, is able to stop time and can go back in time by focusing on photos of herself.

Rewind Edit

Main article: Rewind

Max's most frequently used power is the ability to reverse the flow of time; she can comfortably rewind time several seconds to a few minutes. Max herself is unaffected by the time alteration, remaining in a fixed position while time flows backwards around her, and she retains all recollection of what happened afterwards. As a side effect of this, Max may seem to suddenly disappear and/or appear out of nowhere to those under the effects of her powers (i.e. by moving to a different location and then rewinding time, this allows her to be in a different location than where she was standing originally). Any item(s) on her person before time traveling are also kept with her after the fact. As a sort of focus for her powers, Max normally extends her hand out to rewind time. This method of time travel rarely entails any paradoxes as she rewinds themselves parallel to time.

Future Vision Edit

Main article: Max's Visions

Max can see the future to some extent. Through lucid visions, Max was able to witness Arcadia Bay being destroyed by an oncoming storm. During these visions, Max was experiencing the future event first-hand; thus it's possible that they aren't just visions but rather 'time jumps'. Her experiencing these specific visions may stem from the fact she saved Chloe from dying and in turn caused a butterfly effect.

Freeze Edit

Max has the power to freeze time while also being able to move normally.[1] Max can stop the flow of time; she is unaffected by this and is still able to move around normally. Max discovered this ability during her attempt to save Kate Marsh from committing suicide, but the amount of concentration to maintain it was extremely harsh on her body (her nose also bleeds a little) as seen by her being too weak to use her rewind power after she made it up to the roof. Similar to when she is reversing time, Max held her hand out during the duration of time being frozen.

Pause Edit

Max can also pause time without being able to move. This ability comes in handy when she faces a difficult decision, mainly in dialogues. It is also essential during more serious situations, such as when she attempts to prevent something bad from happening, as it assures she will not pass the time frame of her rewind ability or doesn't have to witness the consequence of her (in)action. It is unknown whether Max's nose bleeds are the result of an accumulative use of pausing or whether a pause can be sustained indefinitely.[note 1]

Focus Edit


By focusing on a photograph, Max can transfer her consciousness back to the time period when the photo was taken in order to change the past. However, she is unable to pass the 'photographic bounds' of the background (i.e. the areas of her environment that seem "out of focus") while the ability is in use. The ability also appears to be limited to photographs in which Max herself is visibly present, whether as the photographer or the subject. Max is also confined to exist at the physical age she was when the photo was taken; going back using a five-year-old photo put her 18-year-old mind in her 13-year-old body, and if she were to use a photo of when she was two, her mind would be placed in her two-year-old body. Max seemed to only remember the original events of the past, having no personal memory of the altered timeline. This ability is used several times throughout the game when Max needs to go to distant past moments.

Episode Three - "Chaos Theory"Edit

  • Max discovers the ability for the first time. She focuses on a photo of her and Chloe from 2008 and prevents William from leaving the house and dying in a car crash.

Episode Four - "Dark Room"Edit

  • Max focuses on the same photo of her and Chloe again to undo her actions and return to the original timeline.

Episode Five - "Polarized" Edit

  • In an effort to escape from the Dark Room, Max focuses on a monochrome photo taken by Jefferson. She manages to kick a trolley, forcing Jefferson to take a different series of photos.
  • Max focuses on a different photo of herself and finds her diary during the focus.
    • She focuses on the selfie taken in Jefferson's class in "Chrysalis", warns David about Jefferson and hands in her photo for the Everyday Heroes Contest.
  • Max uses her winning selfie in the Zeitgeist Gallery to return to the day it was taken and tear it up, preventing herself from winning the contest.
  • She focuses on a photo of her and Warren taken in the parking lot to prevent Chloe from going to the End of the World Party and subsequently dying.

Time-Jump Mechanism and "Autopilot" Max Edit

When Max rewinds time without using a picture, she basically time-travels physically. Her body stays at the same place when she rewinds time. She erases the physical position of her old self and replaces it by a new one. To exterior people, it would seem Max teleport herself.

The mechanism involved with the time jumps through pictures is radically different: it involves Max's mind moving back and forth in time while her body doesn't.

Note: This whole auto-pilot process brings out some confusing points: After the original 13-year-old Max was possessed by her 18-year-old self, how is she going to remember these few minutes when she hid the car keys (the "unresolved point in time")?

Three possibilities:

  • Max won't remember these few minutes and will go on living normally.
  • Max knows she was possessed and knows about her future time travel powers. Not really possible, it would affect the timeline way too much.
  • Her brain will fill in the gaps with fake memories: 13-year-old Max will think she acted from her own will when she hid the keys, maybe thinking it was some kind of prank she doesn't clearly remember.

When a possessed Max warned Chloe on the parking lot, she said to Chloe that the auto-pilot Max that would follow wouldn't remember anything she said while possessed. Our Max couldn't have any way to know that for sure, but it would imply the first theory is actually correct: all auto-pilot Maxes have to deal with amnesia and blackouts.

Is the fact the 18 year-old Max's mind took over the new 18 year-old Max's body (the one member of the Vortex Club) ethical? Even though the original 18 year-old Max is the one who created this new timeline, is it right for her to interrupt the life of the new "auto-pilot Max"? It probably bothered Max a lot since in the nightmare sequence, the Max ghost introduced herself as "one of the many Maxes she left behind" and she said "look at the trail of death you left behind". It could be interpreted as all the auto-pilot Maxes' lives "our" Max interrupted.

Life is Strange is basically the player following the journey of one iteration of Max's mind through time.

Side note: It is interesting to note that the first example of auto-pilot Max is the only one who doesn't have time-travel powers: this Max never saved Chloe in the bathroom. It confirms Max got her powers, or at least only trigger them, by saving Chloe in the bathroom.

Time Jump Edit

While her rewind usually enables Max to reverse time without moving her body, she discovers her rewind ability the first time with a "jump" back in the Blackwell bathroom during the attempt of saving Chloe and then suddenly finds herself back in the classroom. In the Director's Commentary, Michel Koch said that they honestly don't have a good explanation for it. It could be a deeper manifestation of her rewind ability that requires a lot of energy — energy she was only able to muster in such a dramatic and stressful situation.

Consequences Edit

Using her power too often causes Max to experience headaches or a physical breakdown, as seen in Episode 2 when Chloe Price forces her to rewind multiple times. When Max uses her photo jump ability, she often gets nose bleeding inside the photo boundaries or afterwards in the new timeline. However, player-triggered rewinds, regardless of how often, do not seem to have any significant impact on her.

Trivia Edit

  • The game files indicate that the moment when Max focuses on a picture and travels back into that moment is called "Polarewind" (short for Polaroid rewind).
  • When Max is "inside" a picture, a weird effect seems to define impassable boundaries around her referred to as "photo boundaries". The effect is called "Film Burn Particle" in the game files.
  • The moment when Max is in her room and tears up her winning photo is the only time when the boundaries don't look like burning walls but like a burning sphere instead.
  • At a given time Max can use her laptop for research about her power, after opening a page about Wormhole, she will comment on how that theory makes sense. If taken into account how her power works during the rewind Max may actually be right. She may indeed open a wormhole in the fabric of time, (not space), allowing her to go back in time and not to have moved at all in space. This would also explain why pause rewind is harder for Max to perform, in Kate's rescue, under this theory when she pauses time, she actually has to open a wormhole in the fabric space/time as she needs to move herself as well. Further, supporting this theory, is the fact that the rewind position in the timeline is indicated by a "swirl meter" that resembles a crude drawing of a wormhole in the corner of the screen.
  • Illustrator Florent Auguy refers to the timestream montages as "tunnel".[4]

Videos Edit

What Are The Consequences Of Time Travel? Life Is Strange Science Deconstructed

What Are The Consequences Of Time Travel? Life Is Strange Science Deconstructed

Play Noggin explains time travel and chaos theory in Life is Strange

Notes Edit

  1. The pausing of time and rewinds can be sustained for as long as the player sustains it as a game mechanic.

References Edit

  1. Although freezing time was implemented as a game mechanic to give the player time to get Max into the dormitory building before Kate jumped, it is still a power that Max has, as stated by Raoul Barbet in this video from the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in 2016 - from the 22:02 time stamp. A visual cue that Max is using her power is her constantly extended right hand that remains in front of her as she walks slowly towards the building.
  2. Chart by User:Magiccarot.
  3. Reddit post by /u/AwesomeDewey
  4. Florent Auguy's ArtStation Profile
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.