Captain Spirit’s incredible adventures
Game demos have their origin in the early 90s as purely technical demonstrations. Retazos of a game, usually the beginning or the tutorial, that were distributed free of charge -in many occasions together with specialized magazines- so that the players could see how they looked, felt and handled games that were still to come out. At a time when YouTube was only a dream and video games were defined in a generalized way by their mechanics and the possibility of testing the user’s ability, buying without trying, especially modest titles, could be considered crazy.
Almost 30 years later the situation is very different. It is not only that the information, even that related to minority games, is much more accessible, but that the medium itself has evolved in such a way that, sometimes, mechanics or difficulty are not the main thing. Genres such as walking simulatorsor the so-called interactive films attract the public through the story or the message. The titles based on stealth, immersive or with simple mechanics and put at the service of the plot are especially popular and a demo to use not only does not benefit them but can even harm them. When the game progresses according to the decision making, the demo will never be a round experience. When history is the main thing and there is no possibility of “learning” to play or to do better, repeating the first few hours again can be as tedious as rereading the beginning of a book. And in this type of games we can not turn the pages.
The incredible adventures of Captain Spirit have two functions: on the one hand, he renews the demo concept and adapts it perfectly to the type of game he wants to sell; a product of “emotional marketing” that, on the other hand, allows knowing the background and the past of which (surely) will be one of the main characters in the second installment of the saga.
In Captain Spirit we met Chris and followed him on a sunny Saturday morning. It seems like the perfect day. The snow covers everything we can see from the window in front of the desk in which the boy draws what will be his new alter ego, a super hero named Captain Spirit who has the mission to protect the galaxy. The imagination of Chris overflows in every minute of the game and manages to replace the photographs of Max by super interactions that varnish with magic ordinary situations. And that is because Chris needs to escape from the mundane. Locked in a shack with an alcoholic, violent father and fond of false promises, imagination is the only way to assimilate his situation. Also to honor his mother, a well-known professor and comic artist whose death seems to be one of the mysteries that we will address in the main series.
The title works exactly as Life did Strange did. We control Chris in the third person to move around the stage and interact with the environment. During the conversations we can choose between two dialogue options that, at least in this small sample, have almost no real weight in the development of the plot that, created to introduce the character, consists of performing a series of self-imposed tasks while we wait for to finish the game that dad wants to see before going to buy the new Christmas tree. But the party is long and Dad accompanies the beer with drinks from a bottle of whiskey. With the premises presented, it is not difficult to detect the tragic atmosphere that precedes the end, the most interesting of the title, with a plot twist that identifies it directly with the previous adventures of Max.
The main flaw of The Incredible Adventures of Captain Spirit is that, faced with the sensitivity and realism with which Chris is drawn, we find the big brush that deals with issues that require some care. The alcoholism and the violence of the father, the debts, the duel not overcome in the face of the sudden loss of the mother and the adaptation to the new family environment are drawn in the same way as they are in any other title; without care and with too many generalities that can be overlooked thanks to Chris being much more charismatic than Max was. Captain Spirit includes some of the labels of the saga as indie music or the possibility of creating contemplative scenes in which the character relaxes in a bed or watches the horizon. The menu is still drawn by hand and the action scenes are still as loose as ever. But it makes you want more.
The incredible adventures of Captain Spirit is an intelligent demo and an interesting game: a couple of hours in which empathy is the main mechanics and interaction with what surrounds us, the key to get to know the characters. We still have a few months left to know how the second part of Life is Strange will be. What his demo makes clear to us is that Dontnod has managed to do the most important thing: take the essence of season one and, with his superpowers, transform it into something new. That is the extraordinary ability of Captain Spirit.