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The Journey, Beyond Two Souls   Leave a comment

How you like that mash-up?

I recently completed Beyond: Two Souls. Last month, I also beat the game Journey. I wanted to do separate reviews, but the themes in these game couldn’t be more fitting.

Journey was developed by the same team that created flOw and Flower. The game starts out with what appears to be a shooting star (or a meteor) racing across the sky. The scene pans across the screen overlooking a desert landscape. It cuts to a red-overall, shrouded character, the unnamed protagonist you play, with a red scarf with gold-embroidered designs. There is no dialog in the game. All you have are subtle onscreen prompts on how to control your character.

You encounter these cloth-like materials all over the environment. They seem to be made from the same material as your character’s cloak. You can “call” these things with your character’s quipping noise that sounds like random staccato-ed cello notes. They gather around your character and allow it to move faster and hover about for a few seconds depending on how long your scarf has gotten.

Your objective is to go from point A to point B. Along the way, you collect shimmering flashes of light that increase the length of your scarf. Seems easy, enough, but there’s more to this game than that. The point of Journey is to get yourself out of the “it’s a game” mindset and immerse yourself into the experience. The lush visuals of the environment is like a moving painting. The music and sounds of your character interacting the game world are in-synced with what you are seeing on screen. At the end of an area, you are greeted by what I’ve surmised as an angelic presence or guide. It looks just like your character, except much taller and wearing white cloak instead of red. It then shows you a story using hieroglyphic-like drawings on a wall.

From the desert, sunken city, broken bridges, desert surfing and underground city, the visuals will take you away and give you feels. Even when you’re an active participant in the game, you can’t help but feel passive with it.

This is a hard game to review without spoiling it. People have different interpretations on what it is. For me, this game is about life. No, seriously. It becomes more apparent when you suddenly encounter another being like your character moving through the game. You can go through the game with this other person playing and help each other out without talking, using only your character’s movements and soft quipping noises. My take away from that was life is journey. Don’t travel alone.

Segueing into another game, we have Beyond: Two Souls. You play a girl named Jodie. For as long as she can remember, there’s always been this entity that is with her. She calls him Aiden. During her childhood, she was asked by a scientist on all the strange things happening around her. She demonstrated that Aiden could move objects. She also explained that she couldn’t really tell Aiden what to do and that no one can. To her, Aiden is like a lion trapped in the cage with her. He can’t go anywhere and that makes him mad and irritable.

Beyond: Two Souls is the story about Jodie. We go through 15 years of her life. The game doesn’t tell the story in chronological order. There’s a reason for this brilliance. It showcases points in time of Jodie’s life where she was happy, vulnerable, depressed and out of control. The one constant through all this is Aiden.

Aiden doesn’t really know what he is (or even if he is actually a “he”). Jodie seems to understand Aiden and argues with him, so it’s safe to say that Aiden identifies as a man. Aiden can be mischievous, yet chivalrous, if you want him to. You get to play as Aiden equally as Jodie.

Ellen Page plays Jodie. Her likeness and voice were used for the game. One thing I can compare this game with is it’s predecessor, Heavy Rain. Beyond gives us less of the quick time events and more subtle onscreen prompts to keep the story going. The controls were made to be intuitive and easier to digest than Heavy Rain. The voice acting is much better this time around. For a game that puts acting and emotions center-stage, you tend to notice it more. Heavy Rain had great voice acting compared to other games. Treated as a movie/drama, you’ll notice what’s bad and what doesn’t work. Beyond took care of that. They even have Willem Dafoe and Kadeem Hardison along with many other supporting actors that were motion captured for the game.

With less interactions and more focus on the story, we’re back to questioning whether interactive drama is a game or a movie. This time around, Beyond: Two Souls feels more like a movie than a game. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

I’m done.

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SHAAAAAUUUN!!!   3 comments

Quantic Dream released two games prior to Heavy Rain. Their first title was an action-adventure game called Omikron: The Nomad Soul. Little did they know that the gameplay mechanics they explored for their second game, Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy), would be a commercial success. Dubbed “Interactive Drama” by game designer David Cage, Quantic Dream updated the winning formula for the company’s third game and first outing for the PS3.

Heavy Rain is probably one of the most ambitious games to be released that blur the lines on what defines any medium as a game or an art. The game has a huge emphasis on story. It’s not like the developers made the game and wrapped a pretty little story around it. The story itself is what drives the game.

“How far would you go to save someone you love?”

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