There’s a lot of adoration that surrounds Life is Strange. It was a charming coming of age story that, while tackling a number of taboos, managed to hit a lot of emotional highs as we navigated Max’s state of mind, self and her, at times, troubled existence. It took an age-old formula, one that Telltale has done particularly well for the better part of a decade, and really only endeavoured to tell a difficult story, meant in the nicest way possible, to separate itself from the herd.
The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, set in the same in-game universe as Life is Strange, pretty much picks up where its predecessor left off. It doesn’t exactly reinvent its genre or explore the unexplored in terms of its subject matter, but it does tell a very real story of grief and isolation that is bolstered by the fanciful day-dreams of a young boy.Dontnod’s follow-up to Life is Strange centres on Chris Eriksen, a freckled young lad, whose imagination is his only escape. He often uses his alter-ego, Captain Spirit, as an escape, dreaming up extravagant adventures and a host of nemeses for him to thwart with his storybook powers. This make-believe is clearly Chris’ diversion from a stark and sad reality, as becomes evident throughout points of Captain Spirit’s bite-sized runtime. Of course, the episode is free so it’s impossible to criticise it for length. I couldn’t if I wanted to, as the game never feels too short or long. Playing hopscotch between dream and reality left me wanting more from this world. Every action, no matter how mundane, served its purpose. I used a slice of my time to nuke Chris’ father, Charles, a pot of Mac ‘n’ Cheese, this typified Chris reaching out to a dad whose despondency is ballooning.
The way The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit adds dashes of excellent and subtle world-building to map limited to the Eriksen’s modest homestead is one reason why Dontnod’s games are always so affecting. It becomes so easy to root for the characters even despite their apparent shortcomings. Someone who would rush through Captain Spirit might miss out on reading Charles’ carefully stowed letters, and as a result might chalk him up as a poster boy for bad parenting. However, if you read those letters you discover his is a life full of mismanaged anger and grief that he sidelines thanks to a bottle. It’s these real and earnest characters that are Dontnod’s bread and butter and Captain Spirit’s cast, at least in this premiere, is absolutely wonderful.