Pressing X to Ellen in Beyond: Two Souls

Title Pressing X to Ellen in Beyond: Two Souls
Author Tom Chick
Posted in Game reviews
When October 17, 2013

In Beyond: Two Souls, Ellen Page plays a creepy version of the character model of Ellie from The Last of Us. She has access to something called an iDen, which has a number of apps. It has a wall hack app..

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I'm glad to see my initial impressions from the demo weren't far off. I don't mind some story, but I did not like the game mechanics. Time to switch over to Borderlands 2 and do some Loot Hunting...

Ha ha, "tump." My mother used to scold me when I used that word, said it wasn't a real word (and pardon the metaphysical sidetrack, but what exactly is a "real word"?). I think it's great though, it's got that poetic kind of sound effect quality.

"Chunka chunka chunka hurr" is my new favorite dessert!

Bullshit "video games" like this make me want to just go back to playing Gunstar Heroes.

Now there's an HD remake I'd celebrate.

Somehow, the juxtaposition of Tom's review and the hilarious little box blurb near the end of it make me unable to stop giggling. I don't know if all those quoted parts are supposed to be read as sarcastic air quotes, but that's the way I'm doing it and you can't stop me.

Many of these criticisms (all of them, I think) could be applied to Telltale's recent games, the Walking Dead and Wolf Among Us. I'm curious to see if you think the story or mechanics in those is any better...since those seem to be the only other big budget attempts at this formula

"the reveal about this soul is exactly what you expect, so act like
you’re surprised when it comes up at the very end of the story"

It's the good twin she devoured while in her mother's womb?

I don't think you are being entirely fair here, Tom.

I will grant you that there is nothing in Beyond that could be considered objective or challenge-based game play, and in fact, Beyond may not even be properly classified as a game at all. I will also grant you that the various choices you make don't actually change the core narrative of the game (until the end) and that they are superfluous to the gameplay (which as I have already admitted, doesn't really exist).

All that being said, Beyond really did have an effect on me, and I actually quite enjoyed its narrative. Some of that is a direct result of getting to choose those "inconsequential" options. What Quantic Dream is doing (and I admit that they haven't quite mastered it yet) is making something like movies that require a level of engagement of the viewer that simply isn't required in purely passive entertainment. Sure you didn't care about whether Jodie wound up with her "boyfriend character model", but let's say that you did (as I did), even remotely. Thinking about how Jodie should respond to her interactions with him forces you to reflect on the narrative presented. How would I react? How should she react, given what I know about her? If you become invested (and I understand that you didn't) Quantic is really onto something here. It's really no different than the 14 options Bioware used to give its player character when responding to dialogue (before the wheel o' dialogue stances took all that away). You are roleplaying.

Interactive media doesn't have to be a game, per se, as I think you readily acknowledge in your review of Gone Home. For me, I found Beyond to be far more affecting than that particular game, and I think the writing and performance is vastly superior to Heavy Rain (which I also enjoyed). So I feel you are doing a disservice to a game which I think is one of the best in the system's late life, and one which I think has the capability (if decidedly not the guarantee) of being profoundly affecting to players that meet it half way.

"It's pacing," is going to be my excuse for everything from now on.

"Shouldn't you have finished that by now?" "It's pacing."

"Why are the children covered in jelly?" "It's pacing."

Rick, I appreciate that the game worked for you and I'm glad you liked it. I'm also glad to read your perspective here. But I'm curious how you think I'm being unfair or doing the game a disservice. By not liking it? By being too critical? Given how much I disliked the game, I don't understand how else I should have written about it.

By the way, I touched briefly on this when i discussed the game in this week's podcast, but the whole idea of spending time with characters without any meaningful gameplay worked for me in Grand Theft Auto V, where I felt the characters were really well written and developed. But since I didn't feel that was the case here, this game as a whole just fell apart for me.

Dude, spoilers!

Yeah, I need people to keep reminding me that I should try these game, particularly the Walking Dead series. Thanks for bringing it up, Steve. One of these days, I'm really going to dive into some of Telltale's work. I know I'm missing out on an important piece of videogame storytelling.

Yeah, those quotes in the box are always marketing copy, but I can't resist monkeying with it.

Onomatopoeias FTW!

Thanks for the response, Tom. I understand that you really didn't like it and that neither the writing nor the characters worked for you. Further, I think that's a worthwhile opinion to get out there, and I've always liked how thoughtfully you've expressed yourself.

I think the point I am trying to make is that I think what Quantic is doing here is a bit more like a movie than a game. It is premised almost entirely on its narrative. I've believe I've heard you talk about movies that you don't personally like, but that you think might work for other people (and you can correct me if I'm wrong there, I haven't actually committed all of your movie reviews to memory...yet), and I think that Beyond maybe warranted a similar treatment. In so far as your review reads as a total dismissal of the experience, I find that unfair, but I certainly don't begrudge you your opinion.

(On a side note, I adore the world they have created in GTA5, but the overriding tone of cynicism and freshman English major angst about the American experience, really turns me off to the game. By comparison I found the narrative arc in Beyond to be almost optimistic or uplifting. Maybe there is a cynicism/uplift divide?)

Thanks again for the response.

I don't know what tomato paste has to do with anything but sure, I'll roll with it.

I believe a tump is a hillock below a certain elevation above its surrounds, if that description doesn't scramble your brain like it does the English language. So suck it, Mrs Pogue.

Also, am I right in thinking (and after playing the demo this is a purely hypothetical question) that there's no Move support for this? Stop laughing! Heavy Rain was one of the very few games that worked better with a Move controller. Got it bundled with the PS3, before you ask.

For what it's worth, there is nothing on God's green earth that I dislike that I don't also think might work for other people. You can go ahead and stick that disclaimer on my opinion about anything!

As for your freshman English major parallel to the writing in GTA V, I wish I'd gone to a college where the freshmen were as self-aware, witty, and audacious as the GTA V writers. :) But you might be onto something with your point about the divide between cynicism and optimism. GTA V is a cynical story, shot through with misanthropy, bitterness, and disdain. I can understand how that would alienate some people.

Beyond, on the other hand, is full of metaphysics and spiritual values that I thought were pretty silly to the point of being alienating. They don't really get fleshed out until the end of the game, at which point I already had lost interest. But I can certainly appreciate the parallel. Maybe some of us are Rockstar people and others of us are Quantic Dream people. :)