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Beyond: Two Souls tells the fascinating, and yet disturbing life story of Jodie Holmes, a young girl whose life has been shared with an invisible entity known as ‘Aiden’. Aiden is Jodie’s transparent sidekick, a presence bound to her from the early days of a toddler into her life as an adult.
With Aiden constantly close by, the entity can use its powers to fulfill its own needs, for good or evil. Being able to switch between the characters of Jodie and Aiden through the game builds on the relationship between the two and allows the player to view the world around them in different ways.
The developers Quantic Dream take what is almost an interactive movie and places the player in control of these two incredible, yet fragile individuals. Even though the two have a strong relationship, both characters seem to pull in different directions, but ultimately walk the same path. The game is played with a broken timeline, with a series of flashbacks from past to present day, and although the storyline can be confusing at times, it solely revolves around the existence of Jodie and Aidan.
Jodie is a remarkable, unique individual in a world that sometimes doesn’t understand her. She has the gift and the ability to interact with the environment around her, dealing with everything from the harsh and cold reality of a teenage life, to the gritty and relentless work she encounters as she embarks as a government trainee in the CIA. This is a woman who has been tested to the limit, yet her dedication and determination makes her a strong female character who pushes through the mental and physical barriers against all odds.
Controlling Jodie’s character is an extremely enjoyable experience, as she interacts with various items in her environment. A white dot on screen indicates where Jodie needs to engage with interactive switches, communicate with characters or simply utilize an object.
When switching from Jodie to Aiden, you gain full control of an invisible entity, which can then move through walls, throw objects violently and take control of other human beings. Once Aiden is within another human being, you can then control them and use their abilities.
Jodie has no training for what her life will throw at her, and she will often find herself in unpleasant of precarious situations. One example is when she first encounters Walter, Jimmy and Tuesday. Three homeless individuals, lost and forgotten souls trying to survive in the arctic conditions of the city. Tears are an on-going feature of the game as the developers do their best to pull on the players heart strings, so get used to seeing them frequently within the game.
In this particular part of the game, perhaps one of Jodie’s lowest points, she is desperate. With no money to call her own, she faces the struggle of survival. While wandering the city streets, you can use Aiden to break into an ATM machine to gain some cash or ram a newspaper stand to hopefully release some coins onto the floor. Jodie is faced with the reality that doing the right thing may not be right for her. If she doesn’t take the cash from the machine, what will happen to her? All she wants is to be accepted in the world as a normal human being despite her gift. Jodie has choices to make. She can steal, or she could busk her way to some small change and put food on the table. The choices come down to the player, and will influence the journey that Jodie takes.
There are times when Jodie’s sanity is going to be tested, and it is up to the player to bring her back from the edge. When she was offered the choice of taking a knife to her wrists when things got a little too much, I wondered what would happen if I decided to implement this suicidal feeling.
Throughout the game, the player will come across a variety of colourful characters who are quite enjoyable to engage with. When first meeting the homeless individuals mentioned earlier; Walter, Stan and Tuesday, I was hesitant when faced with the grim reality I would be sharing my existence with a down and out alcoholic, a drug addict and young heavily pregnant woman. However, their stories unfold fluidly and the player can immerse themselves in the harsh reality of their existence. Their stories are grim and sad, but feel very real within the game.
There are moments when the game will take the player into some rather disturbing situations. Jodie has a gift which can be used to get her out of trouble, but some situations are even beyond the ability of Aiden to help with, such as delivering a baby. As delightful and wondrous as a new born life entering this world is, Jodie is forced into the reality of delivering this baby whether she likes it or not. I thought the game was joking when it put me in this situation and laughed it off, until the labour cries sounded throughout the room.
The fighting sequences, in which Jodie can use here physical force to counter attack or strike enemies, involves pushing the control sticks in the correct direction at the right time. Sometimes you hit the mark, other times not so much. But sometimes it is difficult to tell if you have failed a section or if this is just how the story progresses. The combat is fun, but takes a little getting used to. The combat situations where you have to use Aiden can be similarly hit and miss, with progression sometimes not very clear.
Ultimately, Beyond Two Souls is an interactive movie experience that hopes to touch your soul and pull on your emotions above all else. It is an enjoyable experience, and one that will remain in your mind for a long time to come. The gameplay is kept to a minimum, while the story and the cast of interesting characters carry the player through the game and leave them yearning for more.