The Latest Saturday Morning Adventure
While you can find this game listed as a “demo” for Life is Strange 2, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is much more than that. It’s a standalone experience that tells its own story, and pioneers an open-ended objective-based approach to the series formula. It also serves as an intriguing short story filled with emotion, realism, and the wonder of imagination. Captain Spirit has some of the best moments the Life is Strange series has produced, and in its nine-year-old protagonist, Chris, a dynamic personality that expands on the mechanics we’ve seen before and utilizes them in his own unique ways.
The game opens in the morning during winter break, where Chris has pretty much nothing to do, and not enough responsibilities to keep him occupied throughout the day. Right away we’re introduced to his love of superheroes, and his own alter ego, Captain Spirit. With a couple button presses, mundane tasks suddenly become incredible, as Captain Spirit can turn on TVs with his mind! That is, at least, until the camera moves and we see the remote in Chris’ hand, hidden behind his back.
Throughout the game there are moments like this, where activities can be energized by doing them the Captain Spirit way. This brings the player closer to Chris, as we get a chance to see him in his element, and have fun right along with him. Then we’re separated again whenever the illusion is ruined by a camera move or a slip-up, and suddenly Chris’ dad is yelling at him for breaking a glass in the sink because he was washing it the Captain Spirit way.
Then you feel awful, as you realize that Chris is stuck. In a small house with an abusive alcoholic for a father, a recently dead mother, and no friends to speak of. He’s not just playing around, doing chores, and embracing his overactive imagination because he’s nine, he’s doing it because there’s nothing else to do. It’s a conscious decision, and he mines every bit of joy he can from every moment Captain Spirit is around. This is because the alternative is to be sad, or worry about the future, and you can only do so much of that.
To progress through the games takes an hour or two, though how much you want to accomplish is up to you. Eventually, Chris’ dad will drink himself to sleep while watching a basketball game (despite vague promises to go pick out a Christmas tree), and you’re left to your own devices. While completing a couple objectives may be necessary as you wait for his dad to start napping, most of them are puzzles both you and Chris have to figure out. Whether it’s finding a way to unlock his dad’s phone, or finding the right materials to finish Captain Spirit’s costume, what I like about these objectives is that they don’t always present themselves immediately. And, the solutions are realistic enough that you don’t feel like you need an artificial hint system to help you through it.
Developer Dontnod paints a picture with Captain Spirit that is somehow both enjoyable and depressing. You feel bad for Chris and the situation he’s in, but also revel in the chance to enjoy being a kid again. This is quite the achievement for a singular episodic experience, and it definitely shows off the advancements that have been made since the original Life is Strange ended. If this is a sign of what’s to come, then I’m absolutely excited to see what ‘s next, and how Chris will play a role in the future. Here’s hoping it’s just as intriguing as this game is.
This review was conducted using a copy of the game downloaded off PSN – for free. You can also find it on Xbox One and PC.