Life is Strange 2 is just around the corner, and we got our first taste of the upcoming sequel with The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit. This standalone game, set in the Life is Strange universe, introduces players to 9-year-old Chris Eriksen, the star of this side story. It's meant to act as a prequel of sorts to Life is Strange 2, though not a direct one, and players learn a lot about young Chris and the life he shares with his father Charles Eriksen in their home in Beaver Creek, Oregon.
For the most part, the adventure is a positive story filled with plenty of lighthearted moments that recall the best parts of childhood. Chris himself is a memorable character that you'll want to learn more about immediately; he's like a little kid brother always asking you to play superheroes with him. He's even got his own superhero persona: Captain Spirit.
But as you get to know Chris and his love of all things heroic, you also unearth some decidedly darker aspects of the game. As it turns out, the innocence of Chris's childhood is being tainted by a toxic relationship with his father, and an abusive one at that. It's something that the game simply won't let you avoid, no matter how many cute, childhood "imagination" moments you have. In this, Captain Spirit tells a story that many should sit up and pay attention to.
Warning: The following article contains heavy spoilers for The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit. You've been warned!
The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit opens up in Chris's bedroom as he wakes up and greets the day. You can check around his room and look at all the toys scattered about, or the bits and pieces of his little life found there as well. He clearly loves video games (though his system is broken), having fun with his friends, and enjoys drawing.
His dad Charles calls upstairs for him to come down for breakfast, and everything seems fine, until eventually Dad screams upstairs with a profanity-laden threat that Chris needs to get his "ass" downstairs for breakfast. It's a bit jarring, considering how mild-mannered the other calls to come down and eat have been. It's a precursor to how bad things can (and will?) eventually get if we see Chris's story continue.
As Chris is eating breakfast, the eggs his father cooked for him, we realize that the young boy is missing his mother, who was killed ahead of this story. We find out later that Charles is now a retired basketball star, a jock who ended up with Chris's mother despite the odds, writing an "odd couple" love story for the ages. Now that she's gone, he's not sure what to do with himself. The two are obviously having trouble dealing with her loss, and it's affected Chris's father far more. Charles has turned to heavy drinking, which Chris points out in various conversation. Charles usually turns the conversation to another topic, or needlessly swears, telling Chris not to follow in his footsteps.
"I don't. Superheroes don't swear," Chris says.
We see Charles point out a nasty bruise on Chris's left arm, presumably caused by him. He also asks Chris if anyone has asked about it, indicating concern. "I can give you an ice pack and maybe one of my pills. No pain, and no swelling. It makes me sad that I...you...got hurt." Chris declines, and his father knows that he's done wrong, causing a deeper rift between the two, but he doesn't quite know how to fix it.
There's an overwhelming sense of desperation and sadness in Charles, as he clearly wants to try to be a good father but seems utterly lost after the death of his wife and the family's matriarch, who was clearly the glue holding the family together.
He's a continual source of disappointment for Chris, promising that he'd take the boy out to get a "real" pine Christmas tree this year, right after he watches the "big game" on TV. He parks himself by the TV for a basketball game as Chris is left to clean up after himself, getting drunker and drunker in the process.
"You always fall asleep," Chris cautions, because he's been down this road before. And eventually, Charles has indeed fallen asleep, drinking himself into a stupor early in the morning while screaming at the TV and essentially shooing Chris away when he gets close.
Near the end of the adventure, when a neighbor stops by wondering about the noise from a stunt Chris pulls later during the game, Charles is seemingly only concerned with someone coming by and playing witness to the abuse he's caused his son. It all culminates in an argument where Charles accuses Chris of calling someone over to check on him, or sharing details about their lives. Charles pushes Chris and blames him for his mother's death, which prompts the child to run out of the door, in his socks, to the treehouse outside in his backyard. The abuse has gone too far, and we're not sure where it'll continue to go from here.
Charles has obviously abused Chris in the past, with the bruise as evidence, and he's revealed shades of verbal and emotional abuse as well. It's a heartbreaking situation, especially since we, as viewers, feel like we have the ability to step in and keep it from happening.
But we don't, and it's terrifying. It feels real, and it's a testament to the excellent storytelling on display here from Dontnod Entertainment. Though Chris's story seemingly ends with the wrap-up of this free episode, we're hoping that this treatment doesn't continue to be his reality.
The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is available to play for free now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.