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Game Review

In 2016, the thought-provoking M-rated video game Life is Strange grabbed the gaming world's attention. It was a compelling adventure involving an emotionally wounded teen who discovered that she had the ability to rewind time and change some terrible moments in her past.

Since then, people have wondered when the next installment might arrive. And The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit gives us the answer—or, at least it cracks the door open a bit so that gamers can get a hint of what's coming. This free downloadable game is actually sort of a demo/intro of the forthcoming Life is Strange sequel. But it's still a complete—if relatively short—adventure story in its own right.

What's most important to focus on here, though, is that The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit includes stormy, emotional, and painful plot twists that go way beyond this game's sunny-sounding title.

Up, Up and Away?

On the face of things, this is the story of a 9-year-old kid named Chris. He's an imaginative tyke who immediately reminded me of an old friend of mine. As a boy, my friend used to tie a towel around his neck and leap off elevated areas in the hope of flying like a superhero through the pure force of his desire. In Chris' case it's all about mind power: As the indomitable Captain Spirit, he imagines bending time and space to his will.

This tyke imaginatively faces off with the dreaded Water Eater, otherwise known to mortals as a drippy water heater in the laundry-room closet. And while putting together just the right super-suit with which to defend humanity against the evil of Mantroid, Chris might just wander out to battle the wicked Snowmancer—that creature in the backyard that also looks a bit like a slightly misshapen snowman missing a button eye.

Sound cute? It is. By putting us in Chris' shoes and homemade cape—and by having us interact with everything from action figures to crayon drawings to old stuff in a garage full of boxes—the gamemakers tug at our heartstrings and help us care for this optimistic, sincere, and creative-minded kid as he wanders around exploring his world.

It's the less imagination-focused stuff of Chris' world, however, that begins to have a different impact on us. It doesn't take long to realize that Chris and his dad are dealing with the loss of a loving mom and wife. A terrible accident took her away and has since compelled Chris to cope through his make-believe narratives and a superhero's code of honor.

His dad, on the other hand, has sought solace in fouler places.

A Broken Man's Anguish

Once we start dealing with Dad's anguish, this unrated game bares a set of M-rated teeth. Dad drowns himself in self-pity and a steady slosh of booze—a combination that turns him from a likeable guy into a stumbling drunk who spews f-bombs and blasphemes at Chris or at the TV. And things grow darker from there.

At one point, Chris' dad motions to the hand-shaped purple marks on his boy's arm and wonders what others may have said about those obvious bruises. In those dialogue interactions, players' conversational choices require a new level of caution. Do you answer honestly and potentially set your father off, or do you say the things he might want to hear?

That kind of realistically scripted moment could be an emotional trigger point for those who've dealt with similar abuse in their own lives. And even if such abuse isn't an issue you've grappled with personally, it's still a jarring narrative turn that makes you feel fiercely protective of this good-but-vulnerable boy who has no one to turn to.

Death, grief, child abuse, profanity, alcoholism and even brief nods toward pornography and drug abuse are all unexpected elements that gamers will encounter in Chris' grief-cratered home. Yes, Captain Spirit's adventures may be free to play. But even in this imaginative hero's world, there's still a potential price to pay.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC

Publisher

Square Enix

Released

June 25, 2018

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Bob Hoose

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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