The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit was a surprising announcement out of E3. With no real word from DONTNOD Entertainment as to the progress of Life is Strange 2, we wondered if anything was actually happening with their incredible narrative-driven game. Then the Xbox media briefing happened at E3 and I thought all of my dreams had come true.
The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is a completely free demo that tells the story of 10-year-old Chris and his wild imagination. It’s set in the same universe as Life is Strange but has a completely different story. Chris lives with his Dad in Beaver Creek and is at the age where everything can become a game (though some would say I never grew out of that age.)
I was delighted and confused by the announcement. What is this, if not a second game? Well, in short the game isn’t as much a lead into Life is Strange 2 than a proof of concept with DONTNOD Entertainment’s marvellous storytelling slathered over the top. It’s a game which explores a new way of telling the story by giving players the freedom to explore and learn more about the story to hand.
Life is Strange for the most part had a fairly linear story, and that’s what made it great. This was then followed up with the prequel, Life is Strange: Before the Storm, which didn’t really stray from the same path.
The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit on the other hand, besides having a new story, offers a more unique and inquisitive way to play, something I assume is set to carry on when Life is Strange 2 begins later this year. Without going too into the ins-and-outs of the game, Chris, like any creative 10-year-old has a super hero persona, Captain Spirit. Captain Spirit is joined by his own team of super heroes such as Power Bear and Forest Warrior and like any good super hero team there’s also Noctarius and his gang of super villains.
While the powers of the other heroes and villains weren’t really displayed, Captain Spirit on the otherhand, he does have a power, a power which was unveiled within the first few minutes of the game which really surprised me. Chris, or should I say, Captain Spirit seemed to have telekenetic powers. At least, that’s how Chris acted when interacting with things such as his toy space ship and the TV.
Turns out, the kid is just incredibly creative as is the development team behind the game, making it look like he had powers, but instead the camera angle would make it look as if he was controlling things with his mind, that is until Chris gave the game away by either revealing his hand holding something up, or pulling the remote for the TV out of his pocket. Chris is the master of deception.
Immediately the game had me sucked in.
Much like Life is Strange, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit has a story which doesn’t hesitate to touch no sensitive subjects, however this time around they’re not as obvious. Now, before I go on to explain what I mean, I’d like to offer a trigger warning for those who do not want to read about child abuse or the suggestion of child abuse.
The story in the game seems to suggest that Chris’s Dad is an abusive father. The reason I say suggest is because the game never goes to explicitly show examples of abuse. Instead, things such as his father drinking during breakfast, using the excuse of “it’s game day” only to sneak off with a bottle of liquor. Another is his father apologetically addressing a bruise on Chris’s forearm.
When his father asks Chris to fetch him another beer, you have the chance to refuse, point out that he might have had enough, to which his father becomes aggressive telling him to get him another beer, to which he downs almost instantly.
That being said, there are then moments you wouldn’t necessarily expect from his Father, some joyous, loving moments. Such as mischievously firing a foam dart at him while he’s watching the game. You’d expect him to get mad, yet he joins in the fun and make-believe.
All of this however seems to stem from the loss of Chris’s mother who is no longer in the picture, and this is where most of the game’s core storytelling comes into play as it’s mostly told through discovery rather than narrative. As players progress through the game (by completing a hand-drawn check-list of Chris’s things to do) they’ll find odd letters, notes, and other plot points which tell the story. It’s this use of exploration which makes The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit really interesting, as it requires more than a single playthrough in order to pull together most of the story elements.
Then, there’s the ending, which I won’t spoil. But bloody hell it’s good, and really sets up the story of Life is Strange 2. Speaking of, there are also elements in the game which hint to what’s in store for players when the first episode launches on September 27, they’re buried in there, but it’s definitely worth taking the time to play through a couple of times to really get deep into the story.
One thing I found quite interesting is the possible nods to popular culture, more notably kids movies. There are obvious mentions such as Frozen, but there’s a guitar “weapon” which looks a lot like the guitar from Pixar’s Coco, there’s also a scene where Chris is turning on the water heater which is reminiscent of a scene from a certain Macaulay Culkin movie (which come on, Chris basically looks like a late Home Alone-era Culkin, right?!).
There are also some subtle nods to Life is Strange 1 too, which were an absolute joy to find.
Overall, while The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit might seem a little bare bones, for fans of the first two games there’s a lot here that’ll get you ultimately hyped for what’s in store later this year. Once again the visuals are stunning, the soundtrack is sublime, and the story’s climax has you on the edge of your seat wanting more.