Announced at E3 and available to play right now at no cost, developer Dontnod Entertainment and publisher Square Enix’s The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is a new narrative title set in the Life is Strange universe. As per pre-release material and notifications within the experience itself, it depicts events and characters that will tie into Life is Strange 2 – which is all but set to ditch Arcadia Bay in search of a new location, cast, and stories to tell.
That being said, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is a standalone heartfelt adventure where you get to spend a day in the life of 10-year old Chris and his superhero alter-ego, Captain Spirit. Awesome Adventures may only provide a single location and afternoon for the story it tells – but the scope is much larger. Dealing with the tragic loss of his mother and a distant father, players are given an almost sandbox narrative to spend a wintery Saturday afternoon checking in on various toys that double as supervillains, finding the right material to put together a costume, and even practise telekinetic powers on snowmen thanks to firecrackers.
Alternating between emotional and charming, there’s an indie-movie quality to how Chris’s imagination is visualised within the small-town setting. From seemingly being transported to another planet when venturing into a darkened room, to sound-effects layered over Chris sitting in a pick-up truck that doubles as Captain Spirit’s spaceship. Which is a testament to the wonderful art direction and set design that can present a believable and identifiable world and protagonist in Chris long before a single word is spoken.
The setup or premise of the adventure is simple but effective too, after cooking breakfast for Chris and retiring to the living room to watch basketball and drink whiskey, Chris is left to pretty much do as he pleases. Whether that’s a list of trackable objectives tied directly to exploration and the goals of Captain Spirit, or simply doing the dishes and other household chores.
At any point waking up Chris’s father triggers an end-game state, so the open nature of players getting to discover and explore presents a narrative snapshot of a character and moment in their life. How it handles the idea of a drunk or alcoholic parent is mostly subtle and far more realistic than the outspoken cartoonish versions we’ve seen before - as recently as Detroit: Become Human. Chris’s father’s abuses aren’t immediately apparent, nor explicitly stated, instead a portrait of a troubled man who lost his wife yet loves Chris is deftly presented.
With the finite nature of the story it tells, and even if you spend time to soak up as much detail as you can, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is over in handful of hours. In that time, you can choose the look and direction to take Captain Spirit, while also solving various puzzles in-order to get more back-story into exactly what happened to Chris’s mother. One of which, involving unlocking a phone, is almost impossible to figure out. Other shortcomings found in the sometimes-clunky writing and overly scripted emotional moments can feel unearned or sloppy. But the spirit and charm found in the surprise-hit Life is Strange is certainly here in The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit.