At E3 I attended a couple Square-Enix presentations: Shadow of the Tomb Raider and DONTNOD’s The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit. Both games had their strengths and weaknesses and I’m glad I went. Something struck me in the middle of the Captain Spirit presentation that reminded me of my favorite moment from Life Is Strange, and I wanted to write it down before it goes away
There’s a scene in Episode 3 of Life Is Strange where Chloe and Max just lie on a bed and listen to “Lua” by Bright Eyes. It’s ostensibly a cutscene; there’s a little bit of character development. But then the characters stop talking and the song just plays. When I played it, I just let the song wash over me until it was over.
I really like Bright Eyes (particularly the album Cassadega), and this scene was beautiful. It can go on for as long as the player wants it to (in my case, the entire run of the song). For some reason or other, not a lot of games let the player just... hang out. I mean, I get it- there’s often a lot of reasons why a player can’t do that. Plot stuff, the sense that whatever is happening isn’t “urgent”. I think it’s great though.
It reminds me of when characters had fun idle animations back in the day. Like, when you left Mario alone long enough in Super Mario 64 he’s start examining his hat or take a little nap. The kid in Ape Escape would do yo-yo tricks or handstands.
I appreciate that Life Is Strange takes something wonderful from normal, everyday life and inserts it into a game. There a several mornings I remember from the past of just lying in bed, listening to music, quietly talking.
Captain Spirit looks like it wants to do something similar. The first music heard in the game is by Sufjan Stevens, perfectly setting the mood. The main player character, Chris, is a nine-year-old kid with a ton of free time and I get the feeling a lot of the emotion that a player might experience during this game depends on how they decide to spend that time. Will they idle and examine all of Chris’ toys in his bedroom? Will they try and watch TV with Chris’ dad? Whatever it ends up being, I like that it’s abstract, that it’s about helping the player experience something different.
Kirk and Jason mentioned something earlier this week during one their (many) Splitscreen podcasts- that every game revealed during E3 was either a samurai game or a post-apocalyptic shooter. I get the sentiment. Hell, the first demo I played on Monday was for Rage 2. Captain Spirit got me though, right in the feels. I’m looking forward to playing it (for free! what?) and seeing how it ties into the larger Life Is Strange story.
I’d love for more games to let the player experience something besides a new way to obliterate a goon. I think that’s another reason I’m digging Undertale- difference is good.