Game of the Week: Beyond: Two Souls

Starring Hollywood stars Ellen Page (Inception, Juno and X-men) and Willem Dafoe (Spider-man), Beyond: Two Souls is a supernatural thriller which tells the story of Jodie Holmes, a girl who has a psychic connection with a mysterious ‘entity’. This entity, named Aiden, is both a friend and an enemy. He has a mind (and an anger) of his own, but he does carry out tasks given by Jodie. It’s a one-feeds-the-other relationship. Aiden helps Jodie as she runs across the globe in search of a normal life. Except, this very search makes Jodie’s life extraordinary, and painful.

In Beyond: Two Souls Quantic Dream, the makers of the award-winning ‘Heavy Rain’, has been able to successfully bring cinema-style storytelling to gaming. The entire game play has in-depth participation from both the characters, combined with superb graphics and detailing; it makes the entire experience rich and compelling.
Jodie goes through many phases in this story that follows her from her childhood to a fully grown adult. The strongest sections of the game are watching her character grow from a rebellious teenager to a homeless beggar who has nowhere to go and nothing to eat.

Scene after scene, Willem Dafoe strikes all the right emotional chords. Their relationship is one of the central pillars of Beyond and there are plenty of memorable sequences which show both characters, together and alone, working their way to solve problems of unspeakable proportions. All the situations in the game have multiple choices and so no two endings are ever the same.

Gamers can choose the path they deem right for Jodie, while using Aiden to carry out a variety of tasks like pushing aside objects (from tables and chairs to cars) to possessing other character’s minds; using them as puppets to carry out side missions. The game is successful in creating an atmosphere charged with emotion, with an underlying current of fear and edgy tension. The cut-scenes however sometimes feel more like a movie and less like a game.

It can drag the game a bit, slowing down its action and flow, turning you into a passive watcher than an active participant. Another problem is the almost predictable nature of missions. While the puzzles are engaging, there is not a whole lot for you to do. Jodie’s every action is controlled by the gamer, but apart from the physical melee attacks, it’s Aiden who takes centre stage in most situations. However,the game’s most disappointing aspect is Aiden’s limitations.

As a spirit, you feel a certain sense of freedom when switching to him but his actions and abilities are limited, leaving you frustrated; especially in tense combat situations. In physical battles, the game slows down as the gamer is supposed to control Jodie’s body. But unlike a simple combat routine, this is complicated by the fact that the gamer has to read Jodie’s movements and facilitate the action by moving the right joystick in the correct direction.

This however, is a bit difficult as some actions look the same. I often got confused between Jodie ducking and landing a side punch of a body block for example. It’s an unnecessary irritant. All in all the game really shines in the performances of Page and Dafoe. It has a very Hollywood feel, which can be good, except it’s too much movie, and too little video game.

Daniel McDonald

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