Review: The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit

Have you tried The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit yet? It’s from the universe of Life is Strange which, to be honest, I have yet to play. (I say “yet” as if this is something I am on the cusp of embarking on.) I may. I might. It’s possible. Anyway, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit caught my eye during this year’s E3 presentations and instantly grabbed my attention. The graphics are highly stylised. The concept is lovely. It’s third person. It’s FREE.But is it good?

Life is nerdy

So, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is a free-to-play game that acts as a precursor / elaborate trailer(?) for the upcoming game Life is Strange 2. It centres on Chris – a nine year-old boy with a penchant for science fiction and superheroes. Top man. He’s very endearing and instantly likeable, and indeed the demo ends by reassuring the player that Chris will be back when the rest of the game (or the first few chapters) is released later in the year. Which is good.Anyway, the demo opens with young Christopher eerily showing me what my own childhood looked like. He’s sitting in his bedroom piloting a spaceship / aeroplane thing through the air and making whooshing noises as his dad pesters him to come and get his breakfast. Now, I doubt Chris was staging his own episode of Blake’s 7 as I was, but the rest of the scenario is uncannily familiar. You’re then free to start exploring Chris’ room, delving into the boy’s passion for comic books and illustration and other imaginative pursuits.After an uneasy exchange with his father, you’re then presented with a series of ‘missions’ that can be completed around the house, including completing your Captain Spirit superhero costume and ‘fighting’ the various ‘monsters’ that encroach your territory. Of course, these monsters are rooted firmly within the hero’s imagination and don’t pose any real threat to life on earth as we know it. Or do they…?

So. Much. Choice.

Anyone who’s ever played a game by Quantic Dream (think Heavy Rain or Detroit: Become Human) will be instantly familiar with the gameplay style. Captain Spirit frequently nudges the player to feel the character’s emotions and get inside his head, and for this reason a great number of things in the house can be interacted with. That is – A LOT of things. There is waaaaaaay too much choice. In fact it’s impossible to make it across the kitchen without being bombarded with a plethora of options, some of which are only there to enrich the backstory rather than contribute meaningfully to one of the game missions, of which there are eight.Obviously, there is no faulting the level of detail here – the developer DONTNOD Entertainment has been thorough in its realisation of Chris’ house, even down to the stickers that decorate the toilet seat. (We all have them, right?) But I did find myself impatient for the narrative to advance, and I felt compelled to check every single interactive option that popped up, just in case it was relevant in some way. And, invariably, it was not.Maybe I have Quantic Dream fatigue, having just started my third playthrough of Detroit: Become Human. (Quantic is very big on making entire missions out of tidying the living room.) But yes, the overarching feelings I came away with were frustration, slight annoyance, and boredom.

So lovely though

Positives? There are some. The parts where the player is sucked into the world of Chris’ imagination are beautifully and compellingly executed. At one point you end up on the surface of an alien planet on a mission to tackle the villainous Mantroid, which is lovingly realised. It’s a heartfelt reminder of the imaginative games some of us played as kids in our own backyards, and it’s exciting to see those aspects of my childhood brought to life in a video game.So much of this is strangled by the tragic backstory, however, all of which relates to the struggles of Chris’ personal life. Again, maybe I’ve been playing too much Quantic, but the game’s need to address inner torment wasn’t really what I was hoping for from this demo. I think I would have liked a little more wonder and innocence.Still, I’m coming into this Life is Strange thing from scratch – maybe darkness and mental torture is the series’ M.O.? This demo has certainly intrigued me and I may well play the new chapters when they release in September. The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is available to download for free now for PS4, Xbox One, and on Steam.What did you think of The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit? Were they awesome? Were you dispirited?? Let me know in the comments below.

Al Survive’s score: 5/10

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