Life is Strange took the world by storm when it first released thanks to its excellent pacing and its intriguing story – hell, it even won a BAFTA. It’s prequel, Before the Storm, may not have went down quite as well as the first game, but it still hit all the right marks nevertheless. DONTNOD revealed Life is Strange 2 earlier this year, but before that arrives, they’ve unleashed a short playable taster that seemingly introduces some of the elements that will play a role in the sequel, amply titled; The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit.
The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit was revealed during E3 2018 as a free to download experience. It’s short, like really short, clocking in at just under two hours of playtime. The game takes place after the events in Arcadia Bay and uses (wait for it) Beaver Creek as its setting, a small town situated a good distance from the previous setting. The game opens up on a cold Saturday morning and centers around a new protagonist, Chris, a ten year old boy with a very imaginative outlook, one that wishes he was a real superhero.
Chris lives at home with his lone father Charles. Playing into his own fantasy, Chris is first seen in his bedroom drawing up his alter-ego superhero, the titular Captain Spirit. Straight off the bat, player choice comes into focus. The player is able to select what Captain Spirit looks like through selecting from some colors and overall designs. It’s a nice touch and instantly makes you feel connected to the story at hand. Though, as seemingly innocent as this story initially leads you to believe it is, it’s actually housing quite a dramatic punch.
One interesting aspect to note is that the choices that players will make in this short introduction, will apparently play a role of some sort in Life is Strange 2. We’re assuming, for the sake of those that skip this, that these choices may not have any significant impact in the long run. In any event, choose wisely, just in case. Once you’ve selected your outfit, Chris will begin playing with some action figures momentarily before the game gives you the reigns, so to speak. I’m trying hard not to ruin too much for those of you yet to enjoy this.
What I will say is that DONTNOD’s exceptional story telling, even in this short offering, is nothing short of outstanding. This all goes hand in glove with the game’s fantastic design and sensational soundtrack, collectively pushing forward that trademark DONTNOD atmosphere. The immediate setup relays a light red herring, leading players into believing that Chris is just like any other ten year old boy, someone that enjoys life to the full without worrying about the weight of life’s burdens. Well, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
You see, Chris’ mother has passed away and he now lives alone with his father, a man that’s clearly fraught with grief and has taken to alcohol has his main outlet. This ultimately makes for a very emotional yet abusive dynamic that pushes the narrative along at a brisk pace. Lesser developers would have left it at that, but DONTNOD goes one further by leaving clues of neglect throughout the environment. Naturally, this rather daunting arch is one of the reasons why Chris relies heavily on his imagination to get him through his day to day life.
Once you’ve gained control of Chris, you’re able to walk around his bedroom and interact with many of the different objects within. Before long, Chris’ father will shout him downstairs for his breakfast. This, is where things start to open up. Charles is in the kitchen making some scrambled eggs whilst chugging on a beer. The story does a good job at distinguishing each character’s traits and before you know it, once breakfast has finished, you’ve got some firm insight into the relationship between Chris and his drunken old man.
Once you’ve finished your food, you’re able to explore the house and engage with it freely. DONTNOD uses this space to relay more focus on Chris rather than Charles or their current relationship towards one another. There’s some optional chores that Chris can take on here too, which again, does well at highlighting Chris’ day to day lifestyle. The game will offer subtle hints as to what mini-quests you can take on, such as finding all of your imaginative allies and enemies around the household or completing your Captain Spirit costume.
You can indeed rush through this experience but that would just overlook everything that the game is trying to sell you. The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is something that needs to be digested properly. If you rush through it without absorbing each and every segment, you run the risk of not truly taking in what DONTNOD has wonderfully crafted. This foundation sets up an emotional premise. One that toys with innocence, grief and longing. If this is anything to go by, Life is Strange 2 will certainly go on to impress.
We’re not sure how exactly this will factor into Life is Strange 2, but I sure as hell hope that we see more of these characters. It would be an absolute waste not to build upon this atmosphere and theme, regardless as to how saddening it can be. If anything, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit makes a statement, one that clearly shows that its developer hasn’t lost their touch. I’ve been as vague as I can be here to save spoiling too much, though, I’ll close by saying that this story is certainly one that I recommend you soak up.
The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit may indeed be short, but it packs one hell of an emotional punch nevertheless. The relationship between Chris and his abrasive father plays a significant role, but it’s Chris’ use of his imagination to get through day to day life that truly steals the show here. This atmosphere, grouped with the writing and the acting, makes for a very captivating two hour journey. Bring on Life is Strange 2.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.