Editor’s Note: This is our spoiler free review that serves as part one of our two-part coverage. You may read our spoiler filled theories based second part.
Henry David Thoreau once stated, “This world is but a canvas to our imagination.” Everyone has undoubtedly turned to their imagination at various times for whatever reason- be it daydreaming, creating their own adventure, or just trying to prevent a bad case of boredom. While some adults may use their imagination for more risqué purposes, kids use theirs to create a sense of adventure. This is especially true for ten-year-old Chris and his alter ego, Captain Spirit, in DONTNOD Entertainment’s The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit. The standalone chapter, that serves as a tease for the forthcoming Life Is Strange 2, puts you in the shoes of Chris/Captain Spirit during a snowy 2017 winter day. Has Captain Spirit come to save the day, or is this more a demo as opposed to a proper tease of what is to come?
Right off the bat (and before the player is even allowed to change their settings), the player is met with a popup that asks for the consent of data collection, so they may track the player’s play habits and play style. While the popup indicates that this is to help them to continue making great experiences and you may decline, it does come off as a bit weird and something I personally do not recall from the previous games in the series. With that said, there is no reason to fault a publisher and developer for being transparent and give gamers the choice to opt out of the data collection if they do not want to take part in it for whatever reason. However, the reaction will dictate how this is seen.
Once you hit the menu, there are two quality of life additions that will makes gamers rejoice. For streamers and video curators, there is the option to mute licensed music. With this becoming a huge medium for games and gamers alike, this is sure to be appreciated as it will help with VODs, DMCA notices, and monetization. Then, for the broader gaming community, there is the option to change from having to mash a button to just being able to hold it to get the same effect. This option has begun to be implemented more often in games- a move that has gamers’ thumbs rejoicing. Even though these are the only new quality of life additions, they accentuate the already great gameplay that Life Is Strange is known for.
Speaking of, the gameplay is what you would expect from a graphic adventure series such as Life Is Strange. You have equal parts walking simulator and interactive movie, with a splash of quick-time events. The appeal to these games- and the reason that the Life Is Strange series is the only one in the genre I will play- is the fusion of fluid controls and an immersive story that keeps the player wanting more. DONTNOD Entertainment have been fantastic storytellers and found a near-perfect gameplay presentation that places them far above the rest. It is also the reason that, while this chapter is really short, even going through several play throughs will only take a handful of hours maximum; it still holds up really well.
Most of the forefront of the story is encapsulated into two interactive cut screens, one at the beginning and one at the end, but the most compelling story is the one that can be pieced together from the interactive surroundings of the house and corresponding yard. These will have the community buzzing with discussion and theories until Life Is Strange 2’s first chapter releases in September. This has to be the hope and endgame for this release, and honestly it should execute it well as the presented story- especially the ending- is so well done and gives just enough enticement to make the player want more. Better yet, there are no noticeable technical issues- even on a first model Xbox One! The player gets a steady and consistent experience while getting immersed into this fantastic world once again.
Immersion and musical choices are two other key factors in why the Life Is Strange series is the forerunner of its genre, and both get highlighted immediately during the opening of the game. The musical choice is fantastic, perfectly placed, and sets the mood for the rest of the players time in the world excellently. This is highlighted twice again later in the play through as the gameplay feature “Special Looks” is introduced. This is scenes where Chris is taking in a particular moment as music begins to play and scenes jump from one to another to give a sense of Chris’s life. They are perfectly done and bring another depth of immersion into the game. This is also helped by the fact that several references to authentic current events are mentioned in a few interactive elements, casting yet another impeccable touch.
This is a tough game to score due to just how short it is even if the player plays through it several times as they become more aware of the environment and timings. With this said, the story presented is a perfect tease while being just enough to whet the appetite for what is to come this September. The gameplay mostly stays the same, however, it does see enough quality of life updates to accent it well while not being overbearing. Lastly, both the story immersion and music marks this game high on the rating scale. Do not just take our word for it, as the game is available right now for free on your current generation console of choice, unless that console is the Nintendo Switch. Maybe Captain Spirit can save Switch users! (Ryan Williford – Gaming Editor)
Review copy provided by Square Enix; reviewed on the Xbox One.