The original Life is Strange series hit me like a tonne of bricks emotionally and as a gamer fond of the player choice style of Telltale games. Coming from DONTNOD Entertainment it delivered a thought provoking game experience like no other in the use of combining a reach musical soundtrack with powerful story telling. However Before the Storm, the prequel to the original story was underwhelming for the most part and strangely, not created by the original DONTNOD team but now we know what they were working on instead, the true sequel to Life is Strange. Delivered as a nice surprise during E3 2018 comes ‘The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit’, a completely free prequel episode experience to Life is Strange 2 and boy, was I immediately transported back to the Life is Strange universe.
This story is set three years following the events of the original Life is Strange game and introduces as to Chris, a typical ten year old kid with a fondness for Superheroes as we find him alone in this room on a Saturday morning putting together the design for his very own Superhero persona Captain Spirit. Some player choice comes into play straight away as you help Chris decide what kind of costume he draws which is pretty much the classic go Batman or go Superman tough decision for any would be superhero wannabe. Scattered around his bedroom are various toys and posters and quickly giving the sense that this is just a kid with a superb imagination and passion for drawing but soon picking up hints that not everything is going great in this household. But I instantly connected with Chris as someone who grew up doing the very same thing in drawing my own superhero world, and just like in the original games, music is used to provide moments of solitude for Chris that brings you the player into his world in such a pure and immersive way.
Soon it is very evident that there is darkness next to Chris’s world of superheros and that real life is not all sunshine and rainbows. After answering his Dad’s call to come to breakfast it becomes quickly evident that he dad has already starting drinking beer that early in the day as he takes a swig from his can only to put it down next to two empty cans on the counter. After a fun exchange where the player is given the chance to try and lie about how terrible his dad’s cooking is, we learn that Chris has bruises on his left arm, which he dad sheepishly attempts to offer help to Chris with whilst at the same time making sure to ask if anyone outside of the house had noticed the bruising. Just from this exchange it is easy to take that Chris’s dad had caused the bruising and also has a drinking problem. This dark tone combined with the reality that Chris has also lost his mum gives so much to why Chris spends so much time in his imagination and not just because he is a ten year old kid.
It does have to be said that this is strictly a demo of sorts and that there are no trophies or achievements to gain by playing through it. But as a preview of what to possibly expect in the main Life is Strange 2 game, it serves as a superb way of returning to this world with familiar gameplay styles and techniques. As we explore the world of Captain Spirit via Chris we learn so much about him in that he is clearly grieving for the loss of his mum and all the subsequent events following her passing such as his dad’s drinking problem amongst other things. By exploring the house you can discover clues such as letters which explain what has happened and the reality of his Dad’s situation which in no way excuses his treatment and possible abuse to Chris but some sympathy as the bigger truth of their situation becomes clearer, but I do not want to spoil it but will say explore and look at everything you can during this game to experience it all. It is all in very true Life is Strange style of the original game and plays so well that I straight way wished that 2 was already available to play.
This is a very short experience but it is cleverly timed out so that the main point of this mini episodes story has a strict timeline to follow, one that allows Chris and the player to head out and do things but the episode can be finished in just an hour but takes just over two hours to complete everything that you can. Even in just this short episode I have to be honest and say I did share a tear at the sad moments Chris experience because it resonated so much with me as someone who grew up without my parents and though older than Chris as that time, I did escape to the world of comic books and superheroes to deal with my loss. The power in the writing gives me such hope and expectancy for the sequel even without knowing anything about the sequel or even if Chris is the main character for the full game at this point.
I really do hope that Chris is the focus of the sequel, getting to know him as a kid and experiencing just this slice of his life has hooked me completely and though I did not know what to expect from this mini episode, it is clear that the power behind the original Life is Strange that made it an award winning and stand out game has returned even for this snippet preview which bodes very well going forward. This truly felt like Episode One instead of a demo and it was genius to make it free for everyone and transported me fully into the world of Life is Strange far more than the complete Before the Storm series.
The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit were indeed awesome and with a fantastic ending that completely left me wanting more. The visuals and choice in musical soundtrack are simply striking with some outstanding voice acting performances that you can see a lot of care and time was taking in putting this preview together. It just ticks every box of the things I loved about the first game but by introducing us to a new character away from Chloe and Max it has a new fresh feeling to it all despite using so many familiar gameplay mechanics. The nods and references to the original game ties everything together and you do feel that this is now a universe with many potential stories to be told and characters to introduce.
I would like and need to see what happens to Chris and his dad and if they are not the stars of the full game I will feel a little cheated at this point but until we know what the full sequel is about, getting to know Chris and his alter ego Captain Spirit was a real joy and heartfelt surprise story to experience.
Life is Strange 2 is set to release September 27th 2018 and is available to pre-order on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC right now.