Captain Spirit earned points right off the bat due to 1) reminding me of the existence of Life is Strange: Before the Storm and 2) a rather clever shot right near the start that implies supernatural powers are in play, only to reveal it was just a camera trick. Announced during E3 of this very year, it’s a sort of prologue to Dontnod’s Life is Strange 2, now announced and slated for release later this year. It’s a short story about a young boy called Chris, who disappears into a superhero identity, the titular Captain Spirit, to mentally escape his humdrum existence, alcoholic Father and, by the looks of things, dead Mother.
Okay so this is a short one and I don’t have a whole lot to say without spoiling it, but I’ll do my best. Chris is surprisingly sweet for a child; his dialogue is well-written and avoids the issue of over-written quirkiness that plagued Max in Life is Strange. His relationship with his Father is well structured, its shifting between good and bad, sweet and tragic as it deals with an only child relying on his imagination, a drunk father quick to say things he desperately wants to take back and a concerned neighbour almost explicitly saying “come stay with us because you’re not safe” in a manner that feels realistic but not so bad as to make the thing too depressing to enjoy. It was said that the game would feature characters that would appear in LiS 2, and given the layout of the story I feel that Chris will be one of them. As it stands he’s a fine contender, and I’m interested to see where the full release takes his story; whether it jumps forward in time and deals with a new story influenced by his relationship with his Father, or stays put in this time period and deals with the issues depicted here. (Interestingly, I was writing this as the credits rolled, and at the end it goes to a screen that says “Meet Chris again in Life is Strange 2”, so now it’s just a question of what story they tell with the character).
Gameplay wise it’s largely the same as LiS and Before the storm: wander environments, talk to people, make choices that have an effect on the character going forward. Most of the choices don’t have much of an effect at all because this is just a demo really, but you can still make some: how you interact with Chris’ Dad, whether you clean up after him, bring up his morning drinking, that sort of thing. The actual gameplay is fine, with the exception of one main change that confused me at first. With some items you have to hold L2 before you can use them, which seems completely redundant. Sometimes it offers a second choice- press X or Hold L2 and then press X to do something else, but when assembling Chris’ costume you can either look at each item or hold L2 and put it on. So most of the time it just made things needlessly complicated, especially considering it didn’t tell me what it wanted me to do. Like Before the Storm it has those bits where you sit doing nothing while indie music plays, to build mood, and rather than push you towards one particular goal it offers you a to-do list drawn by Chris of activities to choose from, most of which revolve around Captain Spirit. I’m interested to see whether this more free-form approach is part of LiS 2, and how the story handles it; here the actual story is progressed through one particular action referenced in dialogue, separate from any of the aforementioned activities, so it felt expansive whilst retaining a sense of direction, which is always a good thing.
I was always going to get Life is Strange 2, because despite the lack of Chloe Price I’m invested in Dontnod and sure of their capability. As it happens this demo for the season ahead hasn’t made me particularly more invested or hyped, but what’s on display in The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit has left me assured that Life is Strange 2 will be just fine, and given my mindset that’s enough for me. I’ll be reviewing LiS 2, and am looking forward to it. So Captain Spirit did its job.
By James Lambert