BEYOND TWO: SOULS is a peculiar game. There have been very few of what is called “interactive dramas.” HEAVY RAIN is the other major one in recent times, but also there’s been Telltale’s THE WALKING DEAD Seasons. Those games offer many different paths based on the decisions the player makes. For the most part, that isn’t the case with Beyond. The only times when decisions really matter is in the climax. This is my first complaint: it would have been better as a movie. Then there’s many things wrong about the story later on. This is not to say Beyond is a bad experience, because for awhile Jodie’s story is really engaging. By the time the credits roll however the player is left feeling unsatisfied and contemplating why a good chunk of the game was even relevant.
The story follows a girl named Jodie Holmes and an entity which is linked to her named Aiden. One of the most interesting aspects of the plot is that instead of telling it the normal linear way, progression is almost always out of order. We jump for example from Jodie’s CIA days to the time she was a little girl. This system works, because it smartly provides bits and pieces into her life and how they connect. Looking back, it was also a good way to balance out action and the more subdued childhood life. The story is well thought out for most of the game.
Now like I said earlier I feel this game would have been better as an actual movie. Why is that? The game has us do meaningless things multiple times such as Jodie turning left and right on her bed. Later as she prepares for a date she takes a shower. (Thankfully that part is optional.) Truly, I do not understand how this stuff is relevant to the story. In The Walking Dead almost every decision you make has an impact throughout the entire game. In Beyond, often it doesn’t really matter what you pick. For example, way later in the story Nathan asks Jodie for him to talk to his dead wife and daughter again. You’re given the option to accept the request or decline. Even if you decline, Jodie still ends up doing it anyway.
It is possible for a game to feel like a cinematic experience and have actual gameplay. THE LAST OF US is naturally the perfect example. Its story watches like a 5-star movie and the gameplay is just as fantastic. The few instances in Beyond where there’s stakes in the gameplay is far too little to appreciate. In the chapter The Mission we have Jodie spying, stealthily taking out opponents, and using Aiden’s psychic abilities to progress. The idea of using Aiden in these type of circumstances was really neat, which is why it’s disappointing most of the game doesn’t utilize this concept. Instead, we get a chapter with Jodie being a rebellious teenager. That chapter you can remove and it won’t have any effect on the game at all.
The best chapter was The Condenser. It felt like a horror experience as we see Jodie go into this scientific building turned slaughter house as she battles these malicious spirit monsters. Their dimension, the “Infraworld” becomes the central part of the story in the climax. Nathan’s character goes a 180 here. I understand the idea, but at the same time it felt inconsistent. In The Condenser which is way after Jodie had him talk with his deceased wife and daughter, he tells her to destroy the portal so the monsters can’t escape into our world. Yet by the end he’s completely lost it, as in he’s created a new portal. It’s inconsistent. An even worst negative is also in the climax. Nathan eventually shoots himself, but then a moment later is seen with his wife and daughter. Jodie smiles at that and later tells Ryan that Nathan “found his peace.” So according to this logic, basically committing suicide leads to peace and is a moment to smile at.
There’s even more wrong with the climax. The final two decisions comes down to this blue light and this dark light. Well obviously that would mean that blue is good and black is evil, right? Not quite. The blue light would have Jodie go “beyond” and she would turn into wind, stars, and the universe. What kind of lunacy is that? The black one called “life” would have her go back to the land of the living. Why this is colored dark the world may never know. Also, the trope of the military being shady is long overdone. They literally offer Jodie a deal, and then…they abduct her anyway? This entire sequence was painful to watch. The big plot twist with Aiden was done very well, even if the idea was explained rather quickly.
As a whole the story does succeed in showcasing the tough life Jodie has to live as an
X-Man a child/teen/adult whom can command power. She is likable, which is especially necessary since she basically has to carry the game. Ellen Page did a great job voicing her. If there’s one thing that’s distracting however, it’s the constant usage of swearing. I really don’t think anyone talks like that in real life. The chapters vary in length; some can just be 10 minutes while some can go up to one hour. Because of this, the game is reasonably paced. The soundtrack is solid. The themes which play during the quick-time events add to the intensity.
Overall, BEYOND: TWO SOULS is an interesting experience. The story mode is well written most of the time. The game however features a lot of meaningless tasks and not enough of the intriguing gameplay mechanics. Going around in CIA mode taking out enemies with a psychic power, battling insidious entities, and driving around in a motorcycle provides the most entertainment, but those are sandwiched in-between a lot of exposition. A lot of the chapters however are very good, such as Homeless. But Jodie delivering a baby there, her playing with Barbie dolls, turning left and right in bed, why would we want to do this stuff? The game ends with a look at the future. The monsters are invading the world and Jodie is in this cool heroine outfit with a sword. That’s the game I would have rather played.