Like Quantic Dream’s previous game, Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls is an interactive psychological thriller that moves players with its emotionally sensitive supernatural story about protagonist Jodie Holmes (Ellen Page).
Jodie has a psychic link with Aiden, an incorporeal being from the Infra-world (the land of the dead) who she has lived with since a young age. The game tells their story from their first, scary encounter when Jodie is a young girl, to when Jodie, as a young woman, uses Aiden’s powers to work as a CIA spy, while, at the same time, finding Aiden’s presence unbearable in some life situations.
Players can switch between Jodie, who interacts with the world as you would expect her to, and Aiden, who can move through walls, interact with certain objects, and offer Jodie psychic connections with dead characters. These abilities serve to help the player progress through the game’s environments and obstacles. Most of this is controlled through simple button presses or controller movements, which an onscreen prompt alerts players to.
Most stages need to be explored to progress the story or are simply interactions with other characters, but others offer different experiences, such as a car-chase, fighting, stealth, and shooting. These differing styles of gameplay create a conflicting tone the game’s tone at times, however, they offer players more variety and help drive the narrative.
At certain points during the game, players are given the ability to influence the story, allowing them to choose how Jodie reacts to certain events. This is novel and immerses the player more. However, unlike Heavy Rain, many choices are inconsequential. Yet, where this made Heavy Rain a cumbersome beast, it makes Beyond: Two Souls a more manageable story. Although this means the story is more linear, it creates for a more cohesive and enjoyable experience.
The story is told out of chronological order, flashing from the past to the present and back again. While this can be a little confusing occasionally, it flows really well and creates the sense of disturbance Jody experiences. Unfortunately, some story elements, such as the infra-world, are not fully fleshed out, yet this doesn’t prevent it from being an enjoyable experience. Further, the nonlinear narrative creates a few issues where characters who died suddenly show up in a later scene, but fortunately this is so rare that it isn’t story breaking.
The story deals with themes of loss, of parents, friends, and a normal life, rejection for being different, and the need to let go of loved ones. Although the story leans on Hollywood clichés at times, it authentically represents the emotional life of a gifted young woman.
The actors playing the lead characters, Page as Jodie and Willem Dafoe as Nathan, give convincing portrayals of their characters throughout the game, both through their voice acting and the motion capture their character’s movements are based on. This adds to the games emotional centre. The supporting cast also give great performances.
The soundtrack enhances the game’s emotional elements, much like a Hollywood film’s soundtrack does, revving up for the action scenarios and becoming more subtle during emotional moments.
Graphically, the game offers near photo-realistic depictions of the characters and environments. For the most part, they run very smoothly, however, slowdown is present in a few effect-ladden areas. Fortunately, this doesn’t detract from the gameplay.
People seeking innovative gameplay mechanics will find this game lacking, since it is essentially about pressing buttons when prompted and making choices at the appropriate moments. However, those seeking an engaging interactive story won’t be disappointed. Recommend.