Beyond: Two Souls attempts to tell a story of the unknown spirit world. Who lives in that plane of existence? Are they friendly or malevolent? Jodie Holmes is connected by an invisible being that follows her through a difficult path where her life and identity are in constant flux. Jodie attempts to live with the fact that she is a conduit between humans and these dangerous poltergeists, struggling to accept her plight. And those around her either attempt to grapple with the idea that these creatures exist, or attempt to control them for selfish reasons, regardless of the consequences.
Aiden is Jodie’s spiritual friend and annoyance. An invisible spirit that has been with Jodie her entire life, but with desires one of his own. You view the world through both characters by switching between them with a tap of a button. Jodie is limited to human interactions such as walking within the environment, inspecting items, talking to people, and other typical human tasks. You’re limited to interactive items and can usually only speak with those required to progress the story. Aiden, on the other hand, has more freedom to travel the world. Since he’s a spirit Aiden can fly throughout the environment, pass through walls, fling objects in rage, inhabit bodies, and even kill. Aiden provides vital information into Jodie’s life - information that an invisible spirit can obtain without anyone knowing.
Shifting control between both Aiden and Jodie assists you in understanding each character. Jodie is often annoyed, having this spiritual tether leached on to her life, and desperately attempts to live a normal life devoid of the hardships she endures daily. Aiden is usually the reason for this, causing havoc at sensitive times, but Aiden shows that he cares for Jodie's safety by providing help during certain situations. Jodie clearly cares for her ghostly friend, but at the same time becomes frustrated knowing she doesn’t have complete control of him. This is because Aiden is trapped in a world that he doesn’t belong to, without any way to get his desires across, or communicate properly. Instead, Aiden resorts to other means to get his intentions across such as manipulating items or violating attacking the environment. Sometimes Aiden wants to help, and other times he simply wants to annoy; the challenge is seeing the world from both characters point of view and observing the connection that bonds them.
Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe are easily the stars of Beyond: Two Souls. Their performances throughout the game are simply outstanding, and overshadow the other actors. When playing I would usually forget the supporting cast and focus my attention on Jodie, and when these people permanently left the game I felt nothing for their fate. This is complete with a fantastic soundtrack that adds more weight to the intense scenes, especially when things feel hopeless.
You decide how Jodie will respond throughout this adventure. While playing the game you’ll periodically switch between Jodie as a little girl, a teenager, and a young woman. Each segment is filled with choices and either it’s sarcastic, aggressive, or polite, but it slowly becomes apparent that a lot of your decisions don’t mean much. A lot of the major plot points play out regardless of your past choices, but how you get there is up to you. You can choose to evade the police completely or get captured and still get away. Regardless of whether you acted passively or violent, the sins of your past are completely wiped when a new chapter starts, limiting the way you can construct a story that is unique to your actions.
During various playthroughs I was able to change Jodie’s personality. This encouraged me to experiment with different paths, despite each one funneling into one gate. While the storyline is set the character wasn’t; Jodie was mine to mold. However at the end all my decisions came together and Jodie’s final moments were a combination of my choices.
Where Beyond: Two Souls starts to fumble is in its gameplay. In close-quarter combat I was required to flick the thumbstick, in the direction of Jodie’s movements, to evade and attack. While Jodie is a trained combat specialist, her movements range from easily read to mind-boggling - due either to the angle of the camera or Jodie herself. This can get annoying, but since the story tends to recover from any faults, it becomes more of a personal disappointment than an actual failure.
Beyond: Two Souls doesn’t break the narrative flow because you failed, forcing you to restart an entire scene. The story continues along regardless - whether you successfully complete each of Jodie’s actions or fumble through a few. The elasticity of the story makes Jodie’s adventure more exciting and connects you to the world. Whether you succeed or fail, each passing venture adds another layer to Jodie.
Controls in Beyond: Two Souls are limited. You are only allowed to interact with certain items and perform specific actions. These vary from tapping specific commands on the PS3 controller or using the controller’s motion sensor. Aiden is also confined to flying through certain areas and can only interact with specific people and items. You are restricted, and during certain battles you’re forced to adhere to certain key items to ensure success. During specific events you’re given the freedom to choose how to tackle objectives, such as possessing a solider to kill his ally, then himself.
Beyond: Two Souls is a tense supernatural adventure full of captivating metaphysical moments. Jodie’s transformation throughout her difficult odyssey is an amazing one, and you eventually grow to care for her as you begin to craft her persona. While the performance of Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe is outstanding the story does fumble with certain dramatic events, sometimes I wished that the scene would end so I could move on to the next part. However, the incredible scenes, soundtrack, and voice-acting overshadow a lot of these shortcomings. Beyond: Two Souls won’t have you gripping your controller for the next sequence, but instead have your eyes locked on the screen, wondering what will happen to Jodie.