The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit might seem adorable – and it is – but it’s also got a bit of bite to it.
One of the highlights of E3 2018 this year was our cascade of appointments with Square Enix on the first day proper. We had several hours booked solid, in which we bounced from Just Cause 4 to Captain Spirit, and from Captain Spirit to Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and from there, we finished with Kingdom Hearts III. It was a timely reminder – in amongst all the zombie games – that video games are diverse and brilliant, and should be for everyone.
Everyone might not include your kids, however, in the case of The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit.
It seems like an odd warning. The game looks saccharine sweet and features the story of Chris, a 10-year old boy who has adventures and solves problems as his super hero alter ego, Captain Spirit. Why wouldn’t you want to play this one with your kids?
If you’re familiar with the children’s/young adult publishing market, for example, you know the rule of thumb that the age of the protagonist usually gives you a guide to the target age of the reader. Katniss Everdeen is 16 in The Hunger Games. In A Wrinkle in Time, Meg Murry is 12 years old. And in the Harry Potter series, the subject matter matures as the eponymous protagonist ages throughout the books, from school year 7 (11 years old) through to school leaving age, at 18 years old.
That is not the case in The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit. Admittedly we only saw around 25 minutes of gameplay at E3, but in it Chris’s father – feeling particularly called out by Chris not wanting him to drink beer with breakfast – drops the f-bomb. You probably don’t want your 10-year old repeating that (though thankfully, Captain Spirit doesn’t swear because he is a superhero).
There isn’t an age rating assigned to The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit yet, either – probably a consequence of the haste in which Dontnod sprung it upon us at this year’s E3, prior to the Life is Strange 2 release date reveal.
Some of the themes – of Chris living in his imagination to escape some degree of neglect from his troubled single father – are more mature than the game’s cheery aesthetic seems, too. That’s not to say that children and young people shouldn’t be exposed to serious, mature storylines, but until we’ve played the whole thing (and it’s been given the nod by the ratings people) we’d err on the PG-13/Teen side of caution there, too.
It’s a bit of a shame, as we reckon a Dontnod game, with their solid understanding of the teen movie genre applied to a younger audience and aimed at families, would sell like hotcakes.
The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is free, on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. Watch this space for our review.