Developed by: DONTNOD
Release Date: 6/25/2018
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC (played on PS4)
Written by Rick Warren / gfn21
With the sequel to 2015’s surprise hit Life is Strange on the way, DONTNOD decided to skip the trailer and tease their game in a different way: a free prequel episode. The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit tells the story of a young boy named Chris Erikson, a kid with a huge love for superheroes and plenty of imagination. While it certainly has some issues, there’s some truly great setup for Life is Strange 2 here. Capitalizing on the same type of storytelling that made the original game a success, Captain Spirit succeeds in making the Erikson family interesting in its short two-hour runtime.
WARNING: SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT
Life Is Still Strange
Even though it has its own name, it’s apparent from the moment the game starts that Captain Spirit is part of the Life is Strange universe. The most obvious reason for this is that there’s no graphical change whatsoever between Captain Spirit and the first LiS. While it’s nice to see the previous art style return, it’s a bit disappointing that the engine hasn’t been improved at all like with other episodic series. It’s hardly a big issue but being able to see more detail in a game that hinges upon looking into things would be great.
The same style of music also returns, and it’s still perfect for the story DONTNOD is trying to tell. Further, there are still plenty of choices to make, only instead of determining if a character lives or dies you’re answering questions in an interview with yourself or deciding the outcome of a fight between your toys. At the end of the day this is the story about a young boy entertaining himself, and the possible responses reflect that. Still, it would have been nice to make at least one decision that felt important. Choices made in this episode carry over to the main game, but that honestly doesn’t seem necessary as it rarely feels like Chris is doing something major.
As for the writing and dialogue, it’s as Life is Strange-like as it can be. Emotional moments still work, and the typical cringe-worthy moments land better due to the young age of the protagonist. Though the actor for Chris could have delivered a few lines better, he still did a solid job bringing the character to life. His conversations with his father and the comments he made while playing felt as natural as they could have.
Some Strong Setup
Admittedly, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is not an eventful game. There is no major objective to complete or huge goal to achieve, and the only big story moment comes at the end of the episode. It’s intentionally slow and simple, something that certain players will inevitably find boring. Others, though, will find its calm and playful tone charming. By giving the player a list of random things to find and games to play, DONTNOD succeeds in invoking the feeling of childhood. Designing your own superhero costume and bringing it to life soon after is a blast, as is finding firecrackers to blow up your villainous snow man creation. Almost all the activities are fun to do...almost all of them.
There’s one objective that is particularly frustrating, as it involves finding the PIN code to unlock your dad’s phone. No amount of exploring helps you here, though. You can try every date, from Chris’s parent’s wedding day to his address. Nothing works. The actual answer? “Hawtdawg”. This adventure is more unfair than awesome, as it is borderline impossible to solve the puzzle without looking up the code online.
Annoying activity aside, Captain Spirit is at its best when it sticks to the basics: building its characters. The conversations between Chris and his dad are great, as his father’s archetype of “alcoholic parent” is fleshed out well enough to keep him from being a stereotype. Learning more about him through all the letters and notes scattered around the Erikson household is something every Life is Strange fan can appreciate. These discoveries are only outdone by learning the backstory of Chris’s mother, as she’s made into a wildly lovable character without ever being physically present. Her love for Chris and his love for her is the backbone of the episode, and it couldn’t have been done any better.
The episode ends with the major reveal that sets up Life is Strange 2, closing on a promise that “Chris will return” in the sequel. Giving a kid who always wanted to be a superhero powers is a great concept for a story, and the choice-heavy format of Life is Strange is the perfect way to tell it. The possibilities setup by this prequel are endless, and it’s sure to make for a great second season.
If you enjoy slow, well-told stories, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is right up your alley. It has flaws; there’s a poorly-thought out activity, little-to-no important choices, and some noticeably outdated graphics... but the episode is still a worth a playthrough. Using the same key elements that made Life is Strange work, Captain Spirit succeeds in building excitement for the next season of DONTNOD’s hit series.
Even though it has some problems, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is a pleasant prologue that works well as setup for Life Is Strange’s second season.
Chris’s relationship with both parents +4
Perfect Tone Achieved +3
Strong Soundtrack +2
Decent Performances +1
Lack of Meaningful Choices -1
Annoying Side Activity -1
No Graphical Upgrade -.5
FINAL SCORE: 7.5