In a surprising announcement, Dontnod and Square Enix revealed a new addition to the Life Is Strange universe at E3 2018: A free, standalone game called The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit. While not officially a part of the upcoming Life Is Strange 2--more news will be shared on that in the coming months--Captain Spirit remains in the same timeline and universe as the one inhabited by Life Is Strange protagonists Max and Chloe, and some story elements and player choices will carry over in Life Is Strange 2.
Life Is Strange’s co-directors Raoul Barbet and Michel Koch walked us through a short demo of The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit at E3. They started off by explaining that Life Is Strange does not encompass a single set of characters like Max and Chloe. Captain Spirit follows a new character, a 10-year-old child named Chris, and this shift certainly changes our expectations for Life Is Strange 2. And although the game is only a couple of hours long, Dontnod is hoping that players will feel encouraged to replay Captain Spirit multiple times to find out more about Chris, his situation, and what that might mean for Life Is Strange 2.
The game begins in the same way as the trailer: A Sufjan Stevens song (Death With Dignity) plays over scenes of a snow-covered house beside a forest, and we're introduced to Chris. He’s playing with his toys, and it’s apparent that he has a very vivid imagination, creating and narrating a fabricated scenario. At one point we're led to believe that he's about to move his toy spaceship with some kind of psychic force, but a quick cutaway shows that this, too, is part of his imagination.
Chris has an alter ego for himself--a superhero with a variety of powers called Captain Spirit--and the game revolves around Chris’ Saturday morning as he spends time role-playing and completing superhero quests. A handy objective menu keeps track of these tasks, which includes things like constructing a costume (which can change depending on choices you make), vanquishing a water beast (a broken water heater), and exploring new planets in his spaceship (treehouse). Interacting with the world as Chris is very similar to Life Is Strange--there are numerous objects you can interact with as you move around the home. Some interactions depict Chris having fun, some interactions have references to Life Is Strange, and the majority of them reveal something more about Chris’ personality, his imagination, and his life situation.
But you can also interact with specific objects as Captain Spirit, using your imaginative superpowers to overcome fear, defeat monsters, and perform heroic deeds. Chris might be afraid of the dark, but Captain Spirit isn’t scared of it at all. It’s a charming idea, and the hand-drawn UI aesthetic layered over the more muted 3D world makes the experience kind of adorable, though a little bittersweet, too. There were a few occasions where Chris’ imagination got wild and the entire 3D world shifted to represent the intensity of his imagination, only to suddenly snap back to reality at the end.
But, you don’t have to do any of this, and the game will wrap itself up at a certain point. Chris’ father (who is definitely not the world's greatest dad) has promised to take him out after he finishes watching a basketball game, and you can spend the interim however you wish: completing superhero objectives, exploring the house normally, or waste it away by playing with toys. A conclusion will eventually happen no matter what you do, but there are more things to interact with than there is time to interact with it, let alone the multiple branching choices that occur.
In a conversation with the co-directors, it came to light that the decision to pivot studio efforts to develop The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit came very shortly after writing for Life Is Strange 2 had begun. This game is very much linked to Life Is Strange 2, and they decided that they wanted to spend more time exploring the character of Chris and his relationship with his father. The decision to make it free also gave them the opportunity to try different design ideas and writing styles in preparation for Life is Strange 2, while being able to create a free, standalone, and accessible entry point to the series for newcomers. “It’s a real gift to the players”, they said.
The Awesome of Adventures of Captain Spirit will be available on June 26, 2018, for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.