by Sean Martin
reviewed on PC
Life is Strange has always been a series that plays with the relationship between light and dark. In the first game we saw many declining aspects of rural American society: people being laid off, struggling financially, disappearing local businesses. We saw grief, hate and greed, but we also saw happiness, friendship and love; the glimpses of light which are the reason people continue struggling through darkness. The game didn’t judge either of these qualities, but merely acknowledged that they are inseparable parts of life, a wax and wane, or to quote Mark Jefferson’s lecture in the very first scene ‘a chiaroscuro’. This relationship between thematic light and dark is why the medium of photography and Max’s power in relation to photographs is so successful.
So I was extremely pleased, playing through The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit (a prequel episode to Life is Strange 2), to see a further honing of this relationship. Our main character is Chris, a young boy living with his father in a snowy and isolated part of America. But Chris has an alter ego: Captain Spirit, a superhero of almost infinite power, who - we begin to realize - is the light he uses to rationalize the darker parts in his life.
The game feels very similar tonally to Life is Strange, a Sufjan Stevens acoustic track playing as we observe the beautiful scenery around Chris’s home. The gameplay elements are also pretty much the same, allowing you to walk around and look at or use certain objects, with a few minor additions. But what I especially appreciated was the way that the episode got so much done with so few characters. I also appreciated the way the episode made the existence of Chris’ powers quite ambiguous, confusing the player as to what was his child-like imagination and what was reality. Plus the sections where Chris purely enters his imagination are just wonderful. The dialogue of Life is Strange was something that a lot of people disliked, but I feel that by using a younger character, the awkward cheesiness is somehow a little less garish, and a little easier to accept than it was in the first game. Though sometimes a little too exposition-y for its own good, I did find myself genuinely laughing at some of Chris’s child-like dialogue, which is something I never did with the first game.
I don't know whether Chris will be our main character, but I am super excited to see a brand new perspective in the Life is Strange universe, plus to see how much of a mechanical/gameplay factor Chris’ imagination will be in the main game (hopefully significant.) If you liked Life is Strange, hell, even if you didn’t, get this (it’s free, after all) and you might find something in this installment that you thought was missing from the first.
Ambiguous power use, good juxtaposition between child-like imagination and difficult reality, IT'S FREE.
Dialogue still a little cheesy at points.