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Storytelling at heart of 'Two Souls'

By EMILY AUTEN/ VN GAMES REVIEWER
On April 7, 2015

“I was born with a strange gift, or what they called a gift. It was really a curse. It's ruined my life. It made me the person that I am today, a freak, a mistake, someone to hate.” – Jodie Holmes, “Beyond Two Souls”

Controlled. Manipulated. Isolated.

These emotions and feelings are common to many, as they all relate back to human life. It is only natural for us to feel this way in many situations.

However, in “Beyond Two Souls,” the meanings of these words are redefined as players take the role of Jodie Holmes, a young woman with a special circumstance, a connection to a spiritual entity named “Aiden,” a part of her that impacted her entire existence.

“Beyond Two Souls” is a unique type of game created by Quantic Dream exclusively for the PS3 system.

Rather than focusing on gameplay mechanics, “Beyond Two Souls” focuses on storytelling and decision making rather than controls.

It has been dubbed by many as an interactive movie, as it plays out in an episodic format that tells Jodie’s life story. Below are some important aspects of the game broken down by section:

 

Story

Jodie Holmes was born with a distinct gift, a connection to a spirit, or entity named Aiden. Aiden is like a psychological tether that can manipulate objects and even people in the environment, which has caught the attention of the government agency, The Department of Paranormal Activity.

Since she was a child, Jodie has had to deal with her entity’s powers, usually causing distinct problems in her everyday life.

Jodie is a strong female protagonist who goes through emotional, physical and psychological trauma due to her power and connection with spirits.

Because Jodie has this connection, she is often left isolated by others and is used as a test subject by the DPA, as they manipulate her and prevent her from living a normal life.

Players will work through episodes that range from Jodie’s childhood and teenage years to adult life.

The interesting thing about this game is that the events are not presented in a chronological order, as they are played at random points in her story. For instance, the game can shift from a scene of Jodie training for the C.I.A to an episode that takes place in Jodie’s teens.

Perhaps one of the most interesting things about the game is that it all feels so real, despite the paranormal and supernatural elements.

For example, in one episode, Jodie attends a high school birthday party at an acquaintance’s house. Rather than experiencing it like a linear movie with a set beginning, middle and ending, players are given the choice to decide what to do at the party, such as turning on music or dancing.

As the event goes on, Jodie will be made fun of, be pressured into drinking and be hit on by a boy. It’s up for the player to decide what to do.

In many instances, Jodie can use her power, so if the player wants revenge on those who hurt her, Aiden can be called to help. If players think that forgiveness is the way to go, then they can leave the house peacefully, ending the episode in its tracks.

Not only are players given choices, their decisions affect the endings of each episode and even the entire game. This is a really interesting aspect that promotes a definite replay value for players who want to see every angle the story can go.

Jodie’s life is unique as she deals with many realistic problems and different storylines that piece together her tale.

Since the game is so focused on story, the plot is top notch and has many twists and turns that help answer why Jodie is the way she is.

As a main character, Jodie certainly delivers, as the player will grow emotionally attached to her and the narrative itself.

There are also deeper, philosophical meanings that force players to think about life and death and how to break free of control and conspiracy.

 

Gameplay

Because “Beyond Two Souls” is like an interactive movie, there is little to no “real” gameplay. When players choose options, they have to push a button with the corresponding before it fades away, or Jodie will default to a certain response.

Another aspect of the game are QTEs, or quick time events. These involve players either pressing buttons or moving the directional stick as quickly and accurately as possible.

Depending on the situation, if players miss, they could fall down, be kicked, punched or even killed. Most QTEs are manageable in this game, but it can grow annoying, especially if the player does not react in time.

Other than pushing buttons, there are two more gameplay elements, stealth and controlling Aiden.

Stealth is perhaps the worst part of the game, as it is only in two episodes and involves players not being caught. It can be tedious, but thankfully it is not a large part of “Beyond.”

Controlling Aiden is perhaps one of the best gameplay elements, as players can control him, knocking down objects, throwing objects and even possessing people to manipulate the environment and help Jodie’s situation.

Many scenes with Aiden are comical and fun to play, as other cannot see or hear him.

The only disadvantages are iffy and awkward controls.

Either way, for someone who cannot talk, Aiden has a distinct personality and often protects Jodie in any way possible, especially from a particular love interest in one “date” episode.

 

Graphics

“Beyond Two Souls” has some of the most realistic graphics in the gaming industry.

The reason for this is that actors and actresses, such as Ellen Page (Jodie), were hooked up to a motion device to capture their faces while they provided voice acting.

This results in characters having realistic movements and appearances.

The environments are also realistic, containing so many details such as pictures on desks, scattered papers and scratches. It truly feels like a movie.

“Beyond Two Souls” is an amazing game that focuses on player choices and interactions with environments that many titles do not offer.

Jodie, although having psychic powers, is a relatable character who has to deal with bullying, acceptance, finding her identity and breaking free of those who chained her down.

“Beyond Two Souls” contains many episodes that deal with a wide variety of subjects such as Native American history,  the hardships of living in a homeless community and dealing with corrupt governmental organizations that wish to use a woman for her extraordinary power.

“Beyond Two Souls” is an underrated game that should be played in its entirety. However, in the end, it’s up for the player to decide.

 

RATING: 8.5/10

Pros:

Strong storytelling

A well-written, relatable protagonist

Realism

Player choice

Cons:

Stealth/Fast QTEs

Aiden’s controls

Some love interests do not fit into Jodie’s story or complement her character

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