The lights are on
Beyond: Two Souls is not a video game in the traditional sense. I know that's a weird way to start a video game review, but it's true. Beyond is more of an interactive experience, one that straddles the line between motion picture and video game. While there certainly is gameplay, Beyond is a story with a game more than a game with a story.
Beyond: Two Souls follows the life of Jodie Holmes and the ghostly entity Aiden. The two have been attached since Jodie was born, and their relationship with one another is the driving force of the story. Aiden is capable of anything from moving physical objects to possessing other humans, which naturally attracts the attention of the government. I won't go any further into the story for fear of spoiling anything, but rest assured, it's amazing. My favorite aspect is that it is a branching narrative, meaning everything you say and do has an effect on how the story plays out. Aiden can be a vengeful spirit or a silent guardian depending on the actions you perform when controlling him. Your input is very important to the flow of the story, which makes for an extremely engaging experience.
Gameplay primarily consists of moving Jodie throughout the world and and interacting with the objects around her. This is done by moving the right analog towards white orbs on the screen, which indicate that an object can be interacted with. Because the right stick is also responsible for moving the semi-fixed camera, this makes for a sometimes awkward experience. When in a combat scenario (yes, there is combat, and it is badass) time slows and the player must move the right analog the same way that Jodie is moving. This works more often than not, but sometimes the direction of Jodie's movement isn't exactly clear, leading to a few frustrating moments. Controlling Aiden is much simpler, considering he's a free floating camera who can move through solid surfaces.
As for what you actually do in the game, it's a mix of action and solitude. One minute you're tearing apart a SWAT team and the next you're setting a table and cleaning an apartment. I know this sounds like awkward pacing, but it's not. The whole point of the game is for you to experience Jodie's life, with and through her. I know packing a bag may not sound like the most exciting thing to do in a game, but what you put in that bag defines who Jodie is as a character. Do you take your favorite stuffed animal from childhood or do you leave it behind? It's little moments like these that made me feel a stronger connection to Jodie than any other character in any other medium I've ever experienced. Jodie is a living, breathing person, even though she's not real. Credit must be given to Ellen Page for a masterful performance that goes above and beyond what we in the gaming world are used to. The tech used to make the game should also be praised because every tiny detail and emotion is visible on the characters faces, making for an unrivaled level of immersion.
Beyond: Two Souls can only be described as a beautiful experience. The music, the story, and the acting come together to create something truly unique. Its focus is on establishing an emotional connection rather than standard gameplay mechanics. That being said, it is definitely not for everyone. Like I wrote before, this is an interactive experience more than a game in the traditional sense. If most games are a roller coaster ride, Beyond is a walk in the forest (with an occasional grenade tossed at your feet). It is a solitary and introspective experience that not all will appreciate. I highly recommend it to all those who are looking for something different and unconventional. If you prefer high octane thrill rides you probably won't find what you're looking for here.
In conclusion, Beyond really challenges the idea of what a video game is. Personally, I don't care. Call it a interactive movie or an interactive cut scene, I will love it just the same. It was an amazing experience, and I hope this isn't the last journey I embark on with Jodie Holmes.
Personal Note: Notice how I wrote that entire review without once mentioning David Cage. I don't know what that guy did to bring the wrath of the gaming world down upon himself, but the absolute vile being written about him in some of the reviews I've read is ridiculous, especially considering these are professional journalists. Now, I've only taken an introductory course in Journalism, but I'm pretty sure your opinion of a product should not be influenced by your opinion of the creator. I'm not a big fan of Phil Fish, that doesn't mean I should bash Fez. In fact I like Fez. A lot. Now look, I'm not trying to bash anyone for their opinion here, I'm just saying review the game, not the guy who made it.
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