You’d have to really be dead inside to not have felt something for Dontnod’s first season of Life is Strange. It didn’t revolutionise the genre, but it told a compelling story that held the attention of most until the finale. Before the Storm gave us a prequel which faltered at the start and end, but let us revisit the characters we already liked and wanted to spend more time with.
Captain Spirit has an uphill task to get people reinvested in a new setting, and in truth, it sometimes retreads a little too much ground for its own good.
You play as Chris, a boy who lives alone with his father because his mother has died in an accident. Sound familiar yet? Chris has an active imagination and plays with his toys. These toys make up an imaginary group of heroes and villains to accompany him: Captain Spirit. He’s the Batman to their Justice League. Or Superman. Actually, I don’t know which one of those is the leader anymore, thanks Injustice 2.
As you’d expect, the setup is key to informing us of the characters, and what to expect going forward with LiS2. With its best foot forward, an early joke is warm and entertaining, playing with expectations we all have of a game set in the Life is Strange universe. But it quickly drops the little nods in favour of some heavy-handed exposition.
Chris’ dad has got a drinking problem. He’s also, it would seem, abusive due to his alcoholism. The reason behind his drinking? His wife died. It’s all well trodden stuff, and when it could be subtle, it instead goes for the punch to the face. ‘I don’t need a lecture about my drinking, I don’t drink that much!,’ dad says, before sneaking a bottle of whiskey from the cupboard and going to watch the game, almost winking at the camera as he does so.
Luckily it’s fun to explore Chris’ home and backyard. Customising your own superhero costume and finding everything your house hides is enjoyable. From the maze that gives you a heartwarming moment to the treehouse where you can (if you want, and you shouldn’t: stay in school kids!) try a cigarette, there’s enough to do that might warrant multiple playthroughs if you so fancy. The first go-around will take around 90 minutes, and that feels just about right, in fairness.
What’s difficult to know, then, is how this all leads into Life is Strange 2. There are enough moments throughout which lead the witness slightly, only to end on what some may consider a cliffhanger, and others may think is a nice ending. Regardless, the runtime means that little is resolved, and Chris’ dad is, yes, complicated, but also undoubtedly an asshole. There are lots of spoilerific implications because the dialogue is often vague enough to suggest the obvious, but also dangle the hope it’s not what it looks like, which suggests the writing team is better than the early whiskey moment, as well as some other story beats I won’t spoil here suggest.
As the adventure progresses you’ll warm to Chris, and the optional things to do add colour to not only the individual characters, but the tragedy of a loss. For all the frivolity that comes from a child that is (at a guess) around 8-10 years old, there are enough reminders of how grief can destroy people and families, how paths we avoid are often chosen by those who cannot fight the darkness off.
Other than new characters, this is very much more Life is Strange. You’ll walk around interacting with items and people, but new here is the ability to use your “powers” to do something different. This might be battling an imaginary enemy, or supercharging the log burner, adding not only warmth to the house, but to Chris as a young man. What will warm you even more, though, is that they finally sorted the lip-syncing issues out, so it no longer looks like a badly dubbed martial arts film.
There are some heart-wrenching moments and there are poorly executed ones, but as a palette cleanser from Chloe and Max’s story, and something to tease season 2 of Life is Strange, it does its job. I’m just not sure where Captain Spirit himself fits into a full season, and it’s possible there may even end up being more than one playable character. That said, the fact I’m even musing on that proves it’s done its job, and the low price of free means you’ll give it a go anyway.
Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: Xbox One [reviewed on], PlayStation 4, PC
Release date: June 26, 2018
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