Along with the somewhat unexpected announcement of a Life is Strange 2: Episode 1 release date that doesn’t seem like a lifetime away—that being the 27th September—DontNod have also just released The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit.
Captain Spirit is a very short introduction to the upcoming main game, clocking in at just under three hours for those wanting to explore and complete everything. In it, we are Chris, a nine-year-old with a sparkling imagination and a love of superheroes. Much of the game has us diving into Chris’ superhero alter-ego, the eponymous Captain Spirit, by finding the components of a costume and performing various little quests around the premises to rid the world (house) of evil.Unsurprisingly for a free teaser, this is not an expansive game. The action is confined purely to the house in which Chris and his father live, the garden areas, and the occasional fantastical landscape of Chris’ imagining. It plays out in a manner that will be very familiar to those who have played any previous offerings in the Life is Strange collection: there is an area with things to find and people to talk to, with simple retrieval quests and puzzles to progress the story. There is however a greater emphasis on optional missions, as Captain Spirit can choose to take the fight to enemies like the watermancer (the boiler), the snowmancer (a worse-for-wear snowman out back) and his greatest nemesis, Mantroid.
The most pressing question is how exactly this will tie in to the upcoming sequel. And the answer to that is a resounding shrug, followed by some speculative mumbling about themes, choices, and possible characters. Square Enix have stated that Captain Spirit will ‘connect [to Life is Strange 2] in multiple ways.’ They continue ‘This is the first step into the diverse world of Life is Strange beyond Arcadia Bay where you will find secrets and hints as to what to expect in Life is Strange 2. In addition to this, choices and actions you make in Captain Spirit will carry over to Life is Strange 2.’ How much of that is the usual exaggeration and how much will ring true is up for debate. But even if Captain Spirit connects with the main series in a vague way, that will in no way detract from an eminently enjoyable adventure, far beyond that which could be reasonably expected of a demo.The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit revels in the wonder and imagination of its child protagonist, counterpointing this with his troubling reality. In this way there are clear comparisons with The Vanishing of Ethan Carter and What Remains of Edith Finch. Perhaps the highest praise that can be bestowed upon Captain Spirit is that, even when inviting comparison with such crushingly evocative and near-perfect games, it never feels like a sham or a pretender. While it may not reach the heights of those offerings, Captain Spirit similarly uses the imagination of a child to convey a tough plot full of pathos in a way which is ever hopeful and avoids glib morbidity.
Those familiar with the original Life is Strange and it’s prequel Life is Strange: Before the Storm will not be surprised that our introduction to the new game is rooted so heavily in loss and grief. Those games, while wonderful and gripping, went beyond tugging on the heartstrings; it ripped them out, fashioned them into a harp and played twee indie folk on them. But Life is Strange was never about sadness. It was about hope. And it is good to see that that Spirit—why yes, this actually is my job—has remained.