When Life is Strange first launched for Xbox One, PS4, and PC back in January of 2015, I did not really know what to make of it. It was one of the first adventure games in recent memory that did not look like a graphic novel and dealt with real, hard-hitting issues liked bullying, suicide, drugs, and sexual abuse. Luckily, the game turned out to be a major success for publisher Square Enix and developer, Dontnod. Following the success of the award-winning Life is Strange, Dontnod revealed The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit at E3 2018 and even released a playable prologue to set the stage for Life is Strange 2, which is set to launch on September 27th, 2018. Captain Spirit follows 10 year old Chris, an imaginative and spirited child, still mourning the loss of his mother and dealing with a drunk and abusive father at home.
Violence: Early in Captain Spirit‘s story it is implied that the protagonist, Chris, has been abused by his father when his dad asks him if his arm still hurts and apologizes for hurting him.
Spiritual Content: Chris’ dad mentions early on that he does not want to be one of those “church people” and Christianity and church is mentioned a few more times throughout the story. Based on the brief glimpse we see of Chris’ story in Captain Spirit, it seems that religion, specifically Christianity, may be a big focus of the story in LiS2. I even perceived how Chris’ dad talks about religion as a hint that Christianity may be what Chris uses to save his dad from becoming an abusive alcoholic.
Drug Use: Alcohol is shown frequently and, in the case of Captain Spirit, is the main villain of the story. There is a rift between Chris and his father that seems to be growing much bigger and faster due to his increased alcohol consumption. Chris is left to clean up the house and cook microwavable mac n’ cheese while his dad gets drunk watching basketball until he falls asleep. These themes can be really impactful for a lot of players who may have actually lived through similar circumstances.
Language: Chris’ dad frequently uses expletives including the “F***” word a few times in the story. Chris is never heard using this language as he is only ten years old.
Life is Strange is easily one of the best adventure games I have ever played, and since its launch we have had a prequel in the form of Life is Strange: Before the Storm and the spin-off chapter leading into Life is Strange 2 entitled The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit. Captain Spirit stars Chris, an imaginative and spirited 10 year old, living alone with his widower father, Charles as they both struggle to cope with the loss of Chris’ mother in a tragic hit and run. Players take control of Chris as they explore his house, front yard and backyard to assemble costume pieces for his alter-ego, Captain Spirit. Along the way, through newspaper articles, letters, TV reports, cellphones and laptops players will slowly piece together Chris’ past with his mom and his splintered relationship with a drunk, abusive dad.
Throughout Captain Spirit, Chris’ own internal monologue, and conversations with his father, reveal that Chris has suffered from both physical and emotional abuse prior to the events of the game. As players explore Chris’ home, including his dad’s room, more backstory will be revealed as to how Chris’ relationship with his father became so strained and why his dad is now an alcoholic. It is heavily implied at points in the story that the neighbors, friends of the family, and even Chris’ own grandparents are concerned about both his well being and the well being of his father.
While gameplay is basically the same as it was in the first Life is Strange, Chris’ ultimate goals are to complete his costume and defeats the villains found in drawings all over his room. There is Snowmancer, the villainous, yet otherwise harmless snowman in his backyard and assorted other action figures and characters created from Chris’ imagination. There is even a battle with the water heater that reminded me of certain scenes in Stranger Things when Eleven entered the Upside-Down.
These “villains” that Chris has imagined as the nemeses of his alter ego, Captain Spirit, act as a type of metaphor for the monsters he faces in real life. For example, Chris lost his mom in a car accident and it is implied that she was on her way to pick him up from school after he got into an altercation with a bully. For this reason, Captain Spirit’s main villain, Mantroid, is a personification of Chris’ feelings of guilt and regret about his mother’s death. To reveal how Mantroid got his strange name would give away one of the best reveals of Captain Spirit, so I will leave it up to players to take the time to find all the items and complete each of Chris’ goals to find out what Chris is really up against. The ending of the game also seems to hint that either Chris, or the kids next door, have super powers as a potentially injurious fall from a tree house is thwarted at the last minute.
There are many games that deal with real-life issues like child abuse, alcohol/drug abuse, sexual assault, suicide, and mental health problems. Not many handle it with as much grace and poise as Life is Strange or Captain Spirit. From the opening minutes, I grew to care about Chris and wanted to see how his story and relationship with his father evolved over the course of my playthrough. As this is essentially a playable demo to the full game, it is implied in the closing credits that Chris will return in LiS2 though it is unclear if players will control him or another super-powered character. For fans of Life is Strange and good story telling in general, I cannot recommend Captain Spirit enough.
The Bottom Line
The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is, quite simply, awesome and really scratches that Life is Strange itch leading up the release of Life is Strange 2. Dontnod is really on to something with this series and I hope that they can bottle lightning twice by making LiS2 as good as the first game.