While holiday spirit is by no means the focus of the story, it still feels weird playing a Christmas episode right after the day has passed. I have to wonder if it was delayed, but if it was, it was worth putting in the extra time. A month has passed since the ending of the first episode, and in that time, the brothers have found a semi-permanent residence – an abandoned house in the middle of the woods. Daniel is learning to control his powers, now able to levitate small objects on command. It’s far from an ideal situation, but they’re making it work. With the arrival of winter and an illness only making things tougher, Sean decides the best course of action would be to visit their grandparents. Thing is, they’re the parents of their estranged mother, and the brothers haven’t seen them since she left.

While an awkward reunion to say the least, they’re willing to give their grandchildren a much needed reprieve from life on the road. I didn’t expect Life is Strange 2 to give us a breather so early in the season, but by taking a break from trials of reality it has time to develop its supernatural conflict. The episode’s titular “rules” are Sean’s rules for Daniel to keep them a secret; while you have no say in what the rules are, how they’re enforced is all you. Daniel’s not to keen on the restrictions, and the superhero-loving kid next door (playing the Captain Spirit prologue is borderline required) makes it even harder for Daniel to refuse showing them off. Your reactions to his slip-ups are the most heartbreaking decisions of the episode, making you question how strict you should be if his rule-breaking was morally justified. It’s remarkable how the writing, acting and storytelling come together to make something as simple as telling your little brother “no” leave you second-guessing yourself long after the moment passed.

The bond between the brothers remains the game’s strongest asset, but this time around they get more time to develop relationships with others . The Reynolds are the archetypal loving grandparents, but are a much-needed positive presence in their grandchildren’s lives. The one sore spot is the boys’ mother, who left so dramatically it scarred the entire family. Then there’s the neighbors, Charles Erikson and his son Chris. Their broken family unit is already familiar (did I mention you should play Captain Spirit?), but Sean’s outside perspective shines it in a new, but equally emotional, light. The fast friendship between Daniel and Chris is the highlight of the episode, because after experiencing both their struggles it’s a relief just to see them happy. Their time together is a wonderful microcosm of the full episode’s theme: it’s obvious these moments are just a distraction from the inevitable, but it’s still worthwhile to find a little light in the darkness.

Life is Strange 2: Episode 2: Rules was developed by Dontnod and published by Square Enix. It was released January 24, 2019 as part of the season pass.