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November 2018

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


PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit'

by Thomas Wilde on June 13, 2018 @ 12:30 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!

Life is Strange 2 is happening. It's not at E3 this year, but it'll be formally announced at some point in the next couple of months.

In the meantime, Dontnod is here at E3 2018 hyping up The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, a short, stand-alone, free "interquel" built in Unreal Engine 4, which serves as a bridge between the two Life is Strange games. You don't have to have played LiS to get anything out of Captain Spirit, but if you have, you'll recognize a lot of familiar names. Dontnod regards Captain Spirit as a sort of introduction to the larger Life is Strangeuniverse and has planted a lot of clues about the upcoming second game throughout Captain Spirit's running time.

In a small town somewhere, during a snowy day in winter, a lonely 10-year-old boy named Chris Eriksen has designed a superhero for himself, Captain Spirit, as a sort of escapist persona. His mother isn't around anymore, and his dad is trying hard, but is clearly still suffering and has a few obvious warning signs. At one point, he makes breakfast for Chris while drinking what might be his third beer.

You can design Chris's superhero outfit during the game's introduction and then explore his house to find out details about Chris's life, determine how he's going to spend his Saturday, and find all sorts of adventure hooks, using a similar UI to what was found in Life is Strange. Objects in Chris's vicinity that you can interact with will trigger a context-sensitive command, letting you check them out for a little bit of information or animation.

This is more of a sandbox than LiS ever was, where you have a list of tasks — Chris's "List of Awesome Things To Do" — and can accomplish them in whatever order you see fit. This includes his battle against the deadly "Water Eater," the scary monster that lives in Chris's basement and is actually the cranky, often-malfunctioning water heater. Through Chris's eyes, however, it's a creature of pure shadow nestled at the center of some kind of inky black plain.

Your first goal is to complete your Captain Spirit costume, using spray paint, spare bandages, and old Halloween makeup, all while digging around the house to learn about Chris and his life. It's an oddly bittersweet experience, as just in the demo, you already get the feeling that Chris's dad is hanging on by a thread and is as lonely and alienated from his neighbors as Chris is. You can find Chris's mother's belongings scattered around the house, giving you a sense of her life and more importantly, the hole she's left behind. (The demo didn't make it clear what happened to her, but I got the feeling that she died. It's a question for the full release in a couple of weeks, I suppose.)

The general feel of Captain Spirit in general reminds me a lot, thanks to Chris, of "Calvin and Hobbes." It plays around with the value of imagination in an interesting and interactive way, where it blurs the line between reality and the imaginary world that Chris lives in. It's a good example of a way in which a game can tell a story that a film couldn't, since the interactivity and the medium both help to confuse the issue in a way you wouldn't necessarily get with film or TV.

The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is due out in two weeks, and it'll be available for free on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and it should probably help for those of you who are having Life is Strange withdrawals. Here's hoping that Chris's side story, however it ends, isn't the thorough gut punch that it looks like it's building up to.

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