2013 was one of the best years to be a video game fan, even better for Playstation 3 owners.
Games like “The Last of Us” and “Bioshock Infinite” have raised the standard for storytelling within the medium and the next outing from developer from Quantic Dream attempts to do the same while falling behind the curve.
Quantic Dream was the original pioneer for the interactive drama genre in video games with 2005’s “Indigo Prophecy.” An interactive drama is essentially a player inputting context sensitive commands while “playing” through a movie and the story reacts and adapts per failure or success of the player’s inputs.
The successful formula continued to 2010’s “Heavy Rain,” a crime thriller with 4 different protagonists searching for the same serial killer. “Beyond Two Souls” is the next outing for the developer and director David Cage. Cage presents a story of a young girl, Jodie portrayed by actress Ellen Page, and her spiritual companion, Aiden, two souls that are inseparable since Jodie’s early childhood.
The story telling is disjointed as it jumps around from childhood to adulthood and back to Jodie’s early teen years, but the problem doesn’t end there as Jodie’s emotions are as irrational as the game’s story. That’s not to say that Page gives a poor performance, since her portrayal of Jodie is the silver lining in this shady cloud of untapped potential.
The gameplay is quite restricted, most notably because director Cage had a definite story to tell.
Interaction is limited to only context sensitive inputs dependent on the scene. Failure to follow through the motions alters the story as well as choices made by the player. Though the choices that the player can make are as odd as the story since one moment you have complete freedom to set up a date for Jodie, including clothes, mood lighting, and even the choice of dinner, but when you’re involved in a decisive scene there is no choice to be made if Jodie kills or spare her assailant.
The game does change point of view as sections of the story shift from Jodie to Aiden, Jodie’s spiritual companion. Those sections’ controls are just as limited since his gameplay sections are puzzle sections. The game holds the players hands as pieces are highlighted and options aim for relative ease rather than creativity.
The story does shine through with as few plotholes as possible and different endings make each playthrough feel like an individual experience. The performances by Page and Willem Dafoe inject more life into the characters than never before seen in most games. Limited controls do put you in the passenger seat, but it’s a ride well worth taking in the erratic sights.