The Awesome Adventures Of Captain Spirit
No we’re not crying, YOU’RE crying
We know what bad guys look like – games have reinforced the stereotype for years. We recognise them even before the menacing
music kicks in.
It’s different in The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, though. The line between archetypal good and bad characters isn’t blurred as much as non-existent, and there’s no subtle camera angles or music cues to choreograph how we’re supposed to feel about them. But when the good guys do terrible things, and the bad guys are capable of kindness, how are we supposed to feel? And what can we do when the decisions we make – the ones made on reckless, feckless impulse – are the wrong ones?
Dontnod’s Life Is Strange is a supernatural coming-of-age tale, and it’s to this universe that we return to in Captain Spirit. And while we don’t, as yet, know how Chris’ story fits into Life Is Strange 2, we know one thing: our choices matter.
Clocking in at just a couple of hours long, Captain Spirit features just two main characters, and set entirely in and around a single-story, rundown house. We meet Chris, a small kid with an enormous imagination, and it’s this ability to fabricate stories that makes up much of Captain Spirit's adventures. A trip to turn on the hot water becomes a battle against the hulking Water Eater, and a miscellaneous pile of rubbish in the yard becomes a secret maze.
And he’s a good kid; kind and thoughtful. He completes household chores – laundry, washing up, fixing lunch – without being asked. He talks to himself a lot – a fairly typical sideeffect of single-child-ism, we reckon – but as the story ambles along, you’ll realise he’s lonely, and how immersing himself in a make-believe life is sometimes preferable to his real one.
If you’ve played any of the previous Life Is Strange episodes, the mechanics will feel the same. Beyond a couple of harder-than-you-might-expect puzzles it’s pretty much do this, collect that. Occasionally the prompts are hidden behind the character or props, and every now and then your invisible reticle gets a little twitchy, jumping from one prompt to the next, but the tasks all feel a bit like filler, really; the story is what matters here.
Despite a masterful lack of violence, the story (child bereavement and abuse) is brutal and heartbreaking nonetheless. You feel bad for Chris, and his father, and then furious, and then desperately sad again, which is a lot of emotions to cycle through in such a brief amount of time. And though it feels very much as though everything – from the score, to the graphics, to the little in-game puzzles – is stitched together to be as intentionally emotional as possible, the careful characterisation makes the cast, and story, come to life… even if it is really, really tough to watch sometimes.
A tough-to-watch vignette of familial love and loss
Chris retreats into his own little world of superheroes and supervillains to counteract his sad, lonely existence, turning everyday chores and events into fun little games to keep himself busy. In his world, the good guys always win.