Acting as a sort of prologue to the upcoming Life is Strange 2, DONTNOD’s The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit follows Chris, a nine-year-old boy who creates the superhero alter-ego Captain Spirit whilst he and his father deal with a recent family tragedy. The gameplay and themes are not necessarily adventurous or especially nuanced, but it has enough heart to ensure a charming and touching experience.

This series always had simplistic player involvement – a point-and-click adventure along with puzzles and dialogue choices – and this entry is no different. The story is also not especially ambitious: it is limited to one setting, with only two key characters and covers Chris’ relatively ordinary adventures around his house on a wintery Saturday afternoon. Yet far from being an issue, the minimal gameplay and story elements are a strength, especially in a short tale like this.The runtime is only about 2 hours, although as a free game this can’t be a complaint. By allowing the narrative rather than the gameplay to be the main focus, DONTNOD are able to develop a quiet and thoughtful adventure that occasionally tugsat the heartstrings.

Each game in this series has its gimmick in addition to the standard gameplay. Max had her time travel abilities, while Chloe had “backtalk” towards her peers and authority figures. Chris meanwhile has a child’s imagination, believing he can use his superhero powers to affect the world around him. This forms part of the reason why seemingly mundane actions, such as playing with superhero toys or following a treasure map, are made entertaining: Chris’ imaginative and joyful approach to these acts imbues them with a sense of fun that is only possible due to the perspective of a child, and thus creates an enjoyable experience for the player.

The themes covered are not anything new or especially original, and could certainly be accused of being predictable, even heavy-handed. The angle of a family tragedy and its effect on the father figure, for instance, has been done numerous times before. However, the game is clearly sincere in the tale it is trying to tell, and so the at-times-awkward delivery can mostly be  forgiven. The game isn’t boring because of this predictability, as it’s helped along by its brisk pace and genuine emotional weight.

The game sets events up for the upcoming Life is Strange 2 and gives the occasional reference back to the original, but it also works surprisingly well as a standalone adventure centring on family and loss. Hence, it can be recommended even without playing the other entries in the series.

An earnest narrative allows for emotional investment in Chris’ story, while the game’s charm empowers the short experience to overcome more minimalistic gameplay and well-worn concepts. The door is thus left open to an interesting future for the character and series, one which people should be optimistic about stepping through.

4 stars

Image: The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit / DONTNOD Entertainment

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