Video Game Review: Beyond: Two Souls

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In Beyond: Two Souls (2013), you play Jodie Holmes (Ellen Page), a girl who is linked to another soul named Aiden. Working with this other soul, Jodie has several unique abilities including remote viewing, telekinesis, the ability to possess other people, speak to the dead, have visions, super healing, the ability to make herself bulletproof, and probably others I’ve forgotten.

This game is very cinematic. I’d describe it as more of a playable movie than a video game. (In fact, it premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.) We are told Jodie’s story out of chronological order. In some chapters, Jodie is a child, in others she’s a teenager, and in others, she’s a young woman. We switch between different points in time and gradually put together the pieces of her life.

Due to the uncontrollable nature of her powers, her parents turn her over to a couple doctors (one played by Willem Dafoe) to raise her and do experiments on her. Eventually, she ends up going on missions for the CIA. Sometimes, using her powers causes her nose to bleed, so this did remind me of Stranger Things a bit, however I believe both this game and Stranger Things were ultimately inspired by Stephen King’s Firestarter about a young girl with superpowers on the run from a secret government organization.

Throughout the game, we get a wide variety of settings from an underwater base, a war-torn African country, a desert, a snow-covered landscape, as well as typical urban settings. Jodie must stop both human monsters and monsters from the spirit realm.

You spend a lot of time feeling sorry for Jodie throughout the game. When she’s a little girl living in a lab under constant surveillance, when she has trouble fitting in with other kids, when she gets sexually assaulted, when she’s homeless, when she’s forced to kill in order to stay alive, when she meets a little boy in war-torn Somalia, or when she meets her catatonic birth mother.

I think my favorite chapter was “Navajo” in which she stays at a haunted house in the American Southwest. It’s one of the few chapters in which you don’t feel sorry for Jodie. Rather, you’re intrigued by the mystery of what’s going on and what everyone is hiding. Jodie becomes a kind of supernatural detective and there are frightening parts.

As confirmed by a newspaper headline, this game takes place in the same universe as Quantic Dream’s previous game Heavy Rain. But unlike Heavy Rain (2010) or another Quantic Dream game, Indigo Prophecy (2005, also known as Fahrenheit), we stick with a single viewpoint character throughout the game instead of switching between characters. If you liked those games, you’ll love this one as well. Just as in those games, choices you make impact what happens later. Just as in Heavy Rain, you’ll sometimes find yourself doing banal things like washing the dishes or cooking dinner,  but the game remains interesting due to the realistic characters and cinematic plot.

Most games have extras you can unlock such as behind-the-scenes making-of featurettes. This game has those, however it also contains some short movies for you to unlock. “The Dark Sorcerer” and “The Casting” are both about video game characters auditioning for parts in a game. They’re both funny, but I felt “The Dark Sorcerer” went on a little too long. My favorite of the short movies was “Kara“, a heart-wrenching tale about an AI who gains sentience. I think “Kara” also counts as a teaser for Quantic Dream’s next game Detroit: Become Human due out later this year.

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