Writer and Director of this title David Cage is on a journey that is seemingly different from his peers: “With Beyond I didn’t want to create another video game, I wanted to create an experience. I wanted players to live something, to feel something, to remember something. It’s undoubtedly an unreasonable ambition to have. After all, it’s only a video game and video games are not supposed to do that sort of thing”
And this is true, the story of Jodie Holmes [Ellen Page], told over a fifteen year period is the entire experience here. Sure there are game mechanics and elements of interactive action, but the no-fail style and storyline sets these apart from even a game such as Dragon’s Lair (from the mid-eighties).
Jodie is born differently, with a paranormal entity linked to her, a disembodied entity that the player can control at pretty much anytime. Unlike the clever and involving “puzzles” in Heavy Rain however, much of the skill in progressing through this game is linked to the freeform movement of exploration by both Jodie and her ethereal companion Aiden.
Control of Jodie is limited, veteran third-person game players will feel claustrophobic in the movement control of Jodie, but will feel almost overwhelmed by the options for ghostly travels whilst playing as Aiden. Thankfully there are no real finger bending PS3 controller acrobatics such as those present in Heavy Rain.
The story of Beyond bounces all over the fifteen year time span, from a toddler version of Jodie, to a full grown young women, many have criticised this structure saying the story jumps fragment the experience, I however found the time jumps engaging, much like the movie Memento. In this case however in a very supernatural style, that is the want of Mr Cage.
Despite the disjointed approach to chapter presentation, the story evolves, coherently delivering the tale by developing the character and situation of Jodie’s life.
William DeFoe joins Page in the co-lead role playing Department of Paranormal Activity researcher Nathan Dawkins who’s experiments on young Jodie to understand the nature of ‘Aiden’ leads to a parental style relationship.
Jodie’s adventure bounces between playing with dolls, to going through adolescent rebellion and joining the CIA on some surprising action laden levels. With Aiden’s help Jodie can see into the final moments of the dead, and possess the living to do her bidding. The game is also littered with action quick-time-events that are not quite QTEs, instead the player must react to Jodie’s movements at appropriate times.
It means that at time the mundane and boring so-called interactive segments of the game are somewhat balanced by more traditional gamey action moments.
Beyond: Two Souls will appeal to only a small subset of ‘gamers’, those that love story over game-play, and even then only folks that find the subject matter engaging, I guarantee that most people at times will find this title annoying, despite how they feel in the long run. It remains however, as Heavy Rain did, an intriguing attempt to bring a different bent to the art of the video-game.