There’s very little we currently know about Life is Strange 2 (besides when it’s finally reaching us), and after playing through this bite-sized teaser there’s still a fair amount of questions that we’ll be hoping have answers once the full series arrives. Still, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is a gut punch to every feeling you can imagine and emotionally, a not-so-delicate reminder that the Life is Strange world is about to come back into your life in a big way.
Set several years after Life Is Strange and set in the new, snowy town of Beaver Creak, Captain Spirit introduces us to Chris, a 10-year-old boy who has a dream to become a super hero and save the residents of his town from the evil Mantroid and his team of supervillains. You can feel immediately that this is part of the Life is Strange world, with the tone of the dialogue, the use of colour in parallel with a narrative that does not walk the same road, the music which again gives the Strange-verse its uniqueness amongst its peers and the overall gameplay, relying on the storytelling around the environment, encouraging exploration and interaction with everything that has an arrow pointing at it. DONTNOD are in the driving seat and you can tell in every corner of this demo. It’s great to have them back.
We don’t get to see an awful lot of Beaver Creek in Captain Spirit as the action is set firmly in the broken home of Chris and his father Steven, doing their best to cope with the loss of Chris’ mother, evidently the glue that held their family together. The relationship between Chris and his father is fractured and at points uncomfortable to be witness to, a pair of eyes following Chris around that shouldn’t be there. There are moments that would suggest Steven has been abusive, his alcoholism a centrepoint of the narrative throughout. It makes you root for Chris immediately, even after we meet him designing his superhero costume. Allowing us to choose elements was a nice touch. I probably should have expected the story to spiral into a dark place given the franchise its based in, though just how far it went was somewhat surprising, considering how little time there was to tell this story. No doubt once Life is Strange 2 arrives there will be more time to flesh out the character arcs.
Chris is a smart kid, and it appears he’s had to grow up quickly to become part of the household mechanism. He cooks and cleans and takes out the rubbish whilst his father sits and watches the game, drinking himself to sleep. Chris seems to want to just get on with what needs to be done – even though you can confront your father on his drinking should you want to – and still has time for the wonderment of youth and his superhero tales. The Captain Spirit of the title is Chris’ alter-ego, a powerful being who has made his presence known throughout the house and the treehouse (sorry, lookout) in the garden. Chris’ escapism allows him to still possess that childlike wonder that may have been taken from him when he lost his mother (also an illustrator who drew comics for Chris).
The ‘game’ aspect of Captain Spirit is all part of Chris’ daily training to be the greatest superhero the world has ever seen, and includes weapons training (throwing snowballs at empty beer cans), blowing up a snowman constructed with a broken aerial, more empty beer cans and cigarette butts, designing and making his Captain Spirit costume and fighting with the Water Eater (the heater in a creepy boiler room). All of these moments add to the innocent that Chris does his best to stay within, and also keeps you busy if you want to see everything Captain Spirit has to offer.
I’ve seen other reviews mention this but it’s worth stating again; Captain Spirit is certainly more of a walking sim than what we’ve seen from this series in the past. There’s only one person to really interact with and they are incapacitated for a majority of the playthrough. It really is Chris’ story and it’s up to you if you want to delve a little deeper and learn just what the story is between Chris and his father. There are some genuinely tender interactions between the two that are amongst the best Life is Strange has to offer. If you’re not dedicated to turning over every rock in the game, mind, you’re going to miss Captain Spirit’s finest moments.
I rather enjoyed my time with The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit. It’s essentially what you come to expect from Life is Strange condensed into a two-ish hour experience that isn’t going to cost you anything to play all the way to the end. It’s very obviously a prequel to something much bigger, and it ends a little abruptly which I found a little disappointing, as I was ready to play for another couple hours. What it has achieved is make me excited for LiS 2, more than I ever was before. I still have no real clue what the sequel might be, or how this plays into its story, but for now this was a touching experience I’m really appreciative of.
It looks like there’s a whole new devastating/uplifting/heartbreaking/life-affirming madcap adventure ahead of us and if Captain Spirit is at the helm, I’m all but ready to save the ever living heck outta Beaver Creek.
The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is out now on Xbox One, PS4 (reviewed on PS4 Pro) and Steam. It’s free so fill ya boots.
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we purchased a copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.