His glass is half-full
It’s always so sad when a child has to take on adult responsibilities. Like, someone in their life has failed them — whether through extenuating circumstances or not — and now a kid has to grow up faster than they should. The older you get, the more you come to terms with the fact that nothing’s ever going to get much easier. Expediting the trip out of childhood innocence and carefree days feels patently unfair. Kids should be kids.
That’s nine-year-old Chris’ situation. It’s just him and dad living on the edge of town in a rundown two-bedroom house. Dad cooks breakfast while nursing a beer. Chris nukes some mac-and-cheese so dad doesn’t drink all that whisky on an empty stomach. It’s a mutualistic relationship that’s profoundly disheartening.
The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit (PC, PS4, Xbox One [reviewed])
Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
Publisher: Square Enix
Released: June 25, 2018
Chris makes the best of it, though. It’s Saturday and that means he can spend the whole day as Captain Spirit, his superhero alter-ego. Well, at least until it’s time for him and pops to go pick out a Christmas tree — if that time ever comes. There’s a good chance dad will pass out while watching daytime basketball, missing yet another simple opportunity to be a good father. Chris yearns for this to not happen again.
So, Chris helps out where he can. He throws in a load of laundry because dad will never do it. He takes it upon himself to wash the dishes, accidentally breaking a glass in the process. (Dad is not happy about this.) He takes out the recycling which is mostly just dad’s empties. He contributes and it starts to feel like more responsibility than he should be saddled with, even if it is just a bunch of menial tasks.
These are just necessary daily chores that are interwoven with what’s really important: All that superhero stuff. Chris also needs to spend the day making his Captain Spirit costume, putting together a treasure map, navigating a maze of doom, and going on an intergalactic adventure to defeat the evil Mantroid — a clever portmanteau of the intersection Chris used to live on, Mantle Street and Asteroid Drive. Mom’s gone now, though, so father and son had to move across town.
Although billed as The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, it’s impossible to not feel Chris’ bias in that title. At all times, the “awesome adventures” are cut with a hefty dose of sad reality. Through his exploration, we find more and more clues that give context to this depressing situation. That only half of this father/son duo has spiraled out of control is a miracle unto itself. Things are bad and there’s no real way to sugarcoat it. But there are ways to use fantasy to escape it all, at least for a little while.
The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit functionally serves as a playable teaser for the sequel to Life is Strange. Because of this, we never get real resolution to Chris’ story. It ends on a gratuitous cliffhanger, and that’s so predictably frustrating. But Captain Spirit uses its two hours well to craft a narrative that leaves us wanting more. That was the whole point. Chris may be a superhero but he’s also an underdog. Everyone loves a good underdog story.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]