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The Awesome Adventures Of Captain Spirit

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: DONTNOD Entertainment
Release Date: June 26, 2018

About David Silbert

I'm a recent college graduate from Boston, MA. When I'm not writing for WorthPlaying, I'm probably researching Celtics trade rumors or struggling to keep up with the growing library on my Nintendo Switch.


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Xbox One Review - 'The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit'

by David Silbert on Sept. 14, 2018 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

Have you ever dreamt of being a superhero? Meet Chris, a creative and imaginative 10-year-old boy who escapes reality with fantastical adventures as his alter ego, the Awesome Captain Spirit!

There's never been a more exciting time to be a Life is Strange fan. The initial series, which was released episodically over the course of 2015, was a surprise hit for developer Dontnod Entertainment and publisher Square Enix, selling over three million copies and captivating players with its emotional story and incredibly nuanced characters. The game then spawned a 2017 prequel, Life is Strange: Before the Storm, which improved upon the series' formula and enriched the original story in satisfying ways. Now, on Sept. 27, fans are finally getting the first episode of the full-blown sequel, Life is Strange 2, which stars a new cast of characters who are bound to move gamers and bring them to tears all over again.

Even before the sequel launches, Dontnod has released a special episode called The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, which serves as an introduction to the characters and relationships that players will encounter in Life is Strange 2. The best thing about Captain Spirit is that it's free, and you don't need to have played any prior Life is Strange games to enjoy its self-contained story.

Captain Spirit isn't just an exciting sample of what's to come later this month; it's also an excellent stand-alone experience that deals with some heavy subject matter during its brief runtime. With its engrossing, believable characters and powerful story, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is worth a look for fans and newcomers to the series alike. Admittedly, there isn't a whole lot of content here, and the episode ends on a bit of a disappointing cliffhanger, but Captain Spirit is recommended reading, especially for those looking to tide themselves over before Life is Strange 2. And hey — did I mention it's free?

Captain Spirit begins with players assuming the role of a brand-new protagonist for the series: Chris Eriksen. A young, nine-year-old boy living in Beaver Creek, Oregon, with his father, Chris behaves just like any typical boy his age: He draws, he plays with toys, and he dreams of being a superhero. During the opening moments of the episode, players are prompted to look around Chris' room on a sunny winter day and interact with the objects in his room.

Right out of the gate, Captain Spirit gives us an effective taste of the gameplay and graphical changes we can expect heading into Life is Strange 2. Most of them — like upgraded character models and fancy new animations when hovering over selectable items — are refreshing quality of life enhancements. However, a few — such as being able to select dialogue options while walking, or being able to perform contextual actions by holding the left trigger — offer far more interesting glimpses into the types of emotional scenes we can expect in Life is Strange 2.

While the gameplay and graphical changes are welcome improvements over Life is Strange and Before the Storm, what's most compelling about Captain Spirit is its powerful story. Despite masquerading as a playful tale about a child who still believes in superheroes, supervillains, and superpowers, Captain Spirit has a far more grim story underneath its cheerful veneer. Chris' father, Charles, is quick to anger, and his struggles with alcoholism and personal loss often lead him to take out his problems on his son.

As accustomed as players have become to heroic, archetypal father figures in games, it is rare to find characters who are fundamentally flawed. It's even rarer to find characters as nuanced as Chris' father. Despite his horrible demeanor, Charles receives plenty of additional characterization that makes him sympathetic and somewhat relatable. Charles isn't some evil bad guy; he's someone who, in spite of his faults, is struggling to parent a child as a single dad. Add in the motif of heroes and villains being Chris' escape from the real-life "villain" of his father, and Captain Spirit's story offers a far more satisfying narrative arc than its brief 90-minute runtime would initially suggest.

Aside from establishing two fascinating new characters, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit also hides some clever nods to past Life is Strange games for dedicated players. Expect to see, read, or hear a fair share of callbacks to Arcadia Bay and its denizens before all is said and done. While nothing in Captain Spirit is going to alter fans' perspective on the prior two Life is Strange titles, the little Easter eggs here and there are nice touches to help ground what is already an extremely down-to-earth episode.

The episode also sports an exceptional soundtrack. As with past Life is Strange episodes, Captain Spirit employs the use of some great mood-setting licensed tracks, from the melancholy "Death with Dignity" by Sufjan Stevens to the pulsing, uplifting "Parade" by Rone. Even days after completing all that Captain Spirit has to offer, I found myself listening to the soundtrack on Spotify to relive it all again.

If I were to single out one nitpick about Captain Spirit, it would be its ending. While the game is obviously a teaser for Life is Strange 2, I felt the episode lacked the proper closure it needed. Chris and Charles' relationship is left on a disappointing cliffhanger, and though Chris is confirmed to reappear in Life is Strange 2, he will not be the protagonist, leading me to believe that any development for him and his father would be cursory, at best. While not a deal-breaker by any means, Captain Spirit's final scene left me wishing that the episode were just a bit longer in length to help wrap up things in a neat little bow. At the very least, the episode's unresolved conflict feels somewhat fitting, given the heavy subject matter.

The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is an easy recommendation for Life is Strange fans as well as for those who have never touched the series before. Clocking in at 90 minutes, the episode can easily be completed in a single sitting; the episode's characters, on the other hand, will stay with you long after you put down the controller. If you have a free afternoon and some space on your hard drive, you have no excuse: Give Captain Spirit a whirl. It's free.

Score: 8.7/10

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