Announced at E3 2018 as a free standalone adventure, Dontnod Entertainment introduced their newest entry into the Life is Strange franchise: The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit. In essence, Captain Spirit is intended to be a bridging episode between Life is Strange and its upcoming sequel, and is designed to give players a few hints about what’s to come. No prior knowledge is required to play it, and it will not be essential to enjoying Life is Strange 2.
Captain Spirit is the superhero “alter ego” of young Chris Henriks who is growing up in the town of Beaver Creek. The game delivers a great balance of child-like wonder and real-world drama, seamlessly moving between being whimsical at times in Chris’ imagination as Captain Spirit and also very confronting in the real world where he’s just regular old Chris. Captain Spirit touches profoundly on some confronting subjects, many which I identified with and found to be very accurate in its depiction.
As you explore your home and backyard, more of the life that exists between Chris, his mother and father are uncovered slowly and shape the narrative around you. You’re also encouraged to play through Captain Spirit more than once, which allows you to experience different scenarios depending on the choices you make during each play through. The vivid imagination of Chris is very infectious and hearkened me back to the days of when I used to run around at school playing “Cops and Robbers” with my friends. Dontnod executes this snapshot of childhood escapism and real-world confrontation so well and has my admiration for really hitting the mark with the way the narrative is detailed.
Much like its predecessor, Captain Spirit generally plays the same but with some small changes. For example, dialogue tree options are now available to respond with while moving around which makes the game flow far more organically than the original. Completing Captain Spirit’s superhero tasks also requires a chain of actions, which I thought was the perfect way to logically set up and finish the tasks instead of being one dimensional. Despite being mostly unchanged, the small changes and logic presented in Captain Spirit are clean and well polished at this point and allow you to explore the world around you with depth and detail aplenty.
I loved the artwork of Captain Spirit, and much like Life is Strange, the scenery comes infused with a beautiful colour pallet which makes the game stand out. Coupled with Sufjan Stevens’ “Death with Dignity” track, the slow acoustic guitar helped to add a real sense of isolation and sadness to this young boy living in a snow-laden town. Captain Spirit also gives a tip of the hat to popular anime series like Sailor Moon, drawing inspiration for Chris’ transformation scene into Captain Spirit from the seminal ’90s magical girl series. Also, I don’t know if I’m the only one that sees this….but does Chris not look like Home Alone child star Macaulay Culkin? The resemblance is uncanny to me!
Available for free, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is a straight up must-play. Whether you’ve played any of the previous Life is Strange games, or are a newcomer to the series, Captain Spirit caters for all audiences regardless of exposure. More importantly, however, is the manner in which Captain Spirit tackles challenging issues while also being able to maintain a spirit of innocence at the same time. In all honesty, it manages to do this with a grace and style that very few other mediums, let alone video games, have been able to achieve with artistic integrity. Thank you sincerely Dontnod, for making me remember both the difficulty and innocence that comes with being a child.