Joystick: “Beyond: Two Souls” can’t get past its predecessor’s innovation

Published 10:30 am Thursday, October 10, 2013

“Beyond: Two Souls”


Rated M: Playstation 3

Genre: Action/Adventure. Cinematic

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–Interesting game design centers on creative paranormal story.

–Cinematic story makes players focus on plot rather than gameplay.

–Lack of choices, QTE-driven chapters won’t work for everyone.

The pressure of innovation is a heavy burden. An inventor who creates something new and exciting is expected to constantly reproduce that success, with exceptional concepts to sell to a cravenous public.

David Cage no doubt understands this, which might be why his studio Quantic Dreams chose to follow up the 2009 hit “Heavy Rain” with “Beyond: Two Souls.” Make no mistake, “Beyond” is one heck of a story. But it’s Cage’s story, as opposed to the player’s.

“Beyond” is a new style of cinematic game which guides players through a rich story. The game centers on Jodie Holmes, a young woman whose gift —her invisible, ghostly partner Aiden — has caused her involvement in several adventures in espionage.

Players see Jodie’s life from age 8 through 23, with various adventures and decisions to explore.

The game plays similar to “Heavy Rain,” in that “Beyond” is essentially one Quick-Time Event after another in bite-sized episodes. “Beyond” leads players through the tale, highlighting paths players can take, with little difficulty.

In effect, that’s the problem with “Beyond.” It’s never a challenge, as the game is more concerned with the sometimes-ridiculous plot than allowing players immersion in “Beyond’s” universe. It’s an intriguing adventure, just not one the player really chooses. After getting several hours through “Beyond” and replaying certain chapters, I can’t tell if the decisions you make have any sort of bearing on the story. That’s a marked difference from “Heavy Rain,” which had multiple endings and ever-shifting plot details based on your decisions.

This lack of choice for players begs the question: Is a video game really a video game if the game is practically laid out for you?

That, in essence, is what “Beyond” feels like it’s trying to answer. In following up such a stellar game in “Heavy Rain,” Quantic Dreams’s conceptual sequel gets no closer to the answer, which feels more like a drawback in this simpler, more steamrolled approach to the “Heavy Rain” design.

That doesn’t mean this isn’t a game worth playing, however. For players looking for a novel approach to interactive storytelling, “Beyond” is a winner, and well worth the money.