I just finished playing The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit in one sitting. Captain Spirit was only announced a couple of weeks ago at E3 and released this week for free on both Xbox and Playstation. It is set in the same world as one of my favourite games and one I have written about on multiple occasions, Life is Strange.
Saying that I finished it in one sitting shouldn't get the wrong image in your mind. The game isn't long, it took me a couple of hours maybe and I feel like I exhausted everything in it by looking at and interacting with everything. It is intended to act more as a prelude to Life is Strange 2, coming this September, and introduce us to characters that will be in that game. Details of the sequel are still scarce though, we don't know if these characters will be the main part of that story or if they will just be tangental. Knowing the developer though I wouldn't be surprised if some of the actions and choices I made in this introduction game come back around later.
Much like the games that came before it in the series, Captain Spirit is a highly story focused game telling a very emotional and personal tale. This time we follow nine year old Chris on a Saturday in December about a year after the passing of his mother.
Chris, like most grade-school kids, loves super heroes and we quickly learn that his mother was in fact a comic strip artist. She was definitely where Chris gets his creativity from as his dad was a start basketball player in college and is still very sports obsessed.
The first thing we do in the game is create the character of Captain Spirit in a really unique way, instead of cycling through design options we're presented with a couple of choices as Chris is drawing out his self created hero. From this sketch we end up searching the house and creating the costume we designed, like every kid playing dress up did at some point or another.
The game has a strong focus on the imagination of youth, though the adventures around the house might look mundane to the outside world, once we climb into that pile of junk in the front yard Chris is transported into an endless tunnel maze that you can't navigate until you find the secret map and decipher it.
When the boiler breaks, Chris must face his fears and tame the fearsome 'Water Eater.'
It is endlessly charming without ever feeling cheesy. The game was so sweet and I had a smile on my face through almost all of it; with the constant fear that at any moment it was about to punch me in the gut. The game doesn't try and hide the themes of grief, loss and mourning and they are always just around the corning.
Chris' dad is an interesting character. A lesser game and story teller would have made him an abusive drunk and while there are hints and worries that unchecked he could become that, at the point that this game takes place he is not that. He's a broken man who has lost his wife and is trying to hold his life together while raising a young son by himself.
He is clearly drinking too much and is struggling to keep it together. It is implied that he has hurt Chris recently but he expresses great shame in that and seems like he genuinely loves his son. Chris still thinks of his dad as his hero though and is smart enough to see that it is the alcohol to blame.
We get hints of more going on with the dad character from items we find around the house and I hope that it is explored more in September.
Unsurprisingly there is one big emotional hit near the end in what can I guess be described as a 'villain reveal.' It's really sad and seemed so obvious after the fact. There is also a bit of a twist at the end that could be interpreted in a few different ways depending on how they want to go with it. The original Life is Strange had a sci fi/fantastical element to it for sure, even though that felt like more of a story telling device than anything else, I'm wondering what they're planning on doing with this one.
The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is out now and free! If you've played Life is Strange it is a must but you don't need any prior knowledge of the series to get enjoyment out of this. Go check it out.