Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Ben's Top Horror - #9: Beyond: Two Souls

Beyond: Two Souls is a game I reviewed in the past, but that's not going to stop me from putting it on this list. (And yes, I'm reusing some of the same pictures.)

When Heavy Rain came out on PS3 I didn't know what to think of it. The concept of it being a "movie like game" interested me, but I wasn't sure how I felt about letting characters die and missing out on story. I guess it didn't really matter though, because the game was a PS3 exclusive, and I only had an Xbox 360. Even so, I kept my eye on the game and put it down on my list of "games to get if I ever get a PS3." Needless to say, that's exactly what I did.

Although Heavy Rain wasn't one of my first choices, it was one of my early PS3 titles. Back then I didn't have wifi so I mainly stuck to single player PS3 games, and because of that Heavy Rain was clearly a good choice for me. Even so, I was still a poor college student back then (heck, I bought my PS3 with tip money I had saved up for about a year), and what games I got was limited. But then one day I caved.

Even though the game might not be for everyone, Heavy Rain quickly became one of my favorite PS3 titles. The story had me hooked from start to finish, I loved the characters, and I loved the mystery. I got the game around the same time I started getting into crime dramas (such as Bones) so it was a perfect fit for me, and I never wanted it to end. Of course it really isn't that long of a game, so I had finished it within the week. Afterwords I would go back to it from time to time (even played through parts of it with friends who came over), but it just wasn't the same after you finish it once. Knowing the answers takes a lot out of it unfortunately, but at least there was the hope of a follow up release. That's when we saw Kara.

We didn't know it at the time, but Kara was a tech demo showing off what the PS3 was still capable of. It looked great, and the story about cyborgs seemed interesting; however, this was not going to be the team's next game. Instead Kara would be shelved for quite some time (to become Detroit: Become Human later on), and Beyond: Two Souls would be taking it's place as one of the PS3's final send offs. I'll admit it didn't interest me as much as Kara, but it seemed like a cool idea. And then I played it.

Rather than being a crime drama like the previous game, Beyond followed the story of a young girl named Jodie, who was born different than everyone else. Instead of being a single person, Jodie is never alone. Ever since she was born a strange "entity" named Aiden has been with her. He played with her as a child, protected her from danger, and let the world know when he was upset. This caused people to fear Jodie, making it impossible for her to live a normal life.

While you can't completely call Beyond a horror game, it's another title that really pushes the limits. Instead of following Jodie's life in chronological order, each chapter jumps to a different moment in time, and leaves blanks in the story for you to slowly figure out for yourself. The game begins with Jodie working with the CIA, but quickly then jumps back to her childhood. In both cases Aiden plays a key role in the story, but in each chapter he's seen a bit differently. For example, in the opening, Aiden acts more as a tool to help Jodie complete her mission. He doesn't fully listen to her (as you have control over Aiden and can do as you wish), but it's clear his talents are a very useful tool. In the next chapter showing Jodie's childhood however, he's something to be feared. Jodie is picked on and hated for being different, and this angers Aiden -- who then goes on a rampage and can possibly nearly kill everyone despite Jodie asking him to stop. It's at moments like these you realize this "thing" called Aiden might not be something you want to mess with.

After these early events things begin to change. Although Aiden himself was always a bit creepy, it's not until the "house" that you realize maybe Aiden isn't what you should be afraid of. I can still remember starting this chapter late at night, and not knowing what to expect. It begins with little Jodie looking out the window of her house, wanting to go outside to play. She can't however, and instead has to make due with staying inside. However, what starts out as an innocent child playing in her home, soon becomes something else entirely. Although the chapter itself isn't too "scary," it sets the tone for the rest of the game. As Jodie plays weird things start happening around her that's not Aiden's fault. The music changes, the camera angles suggest something else is right around the corner, and the lighting gives you a sense of danger as you slowly walk towards your goal. Mix in a few jump scares, and some sights you cannot explain, and you've got a perfect setup for the rest of the game.

As Beyond continues, there are multiple story arcs of strange/unexplained events. While some of it is related to what happens in her childhood home, other stories revolve around self contained urban legends. Without going into spoilers, a lot of what is seen is reminiscent of old shows like Courage the Cowardly Dog. It's nightmare fuel that's hard to describe, and it leaves you with a sense of uncertainty. Just what is it you are seeing? What is it you can trust? There are so many questions, and just when you think you have things figured out, it all changes. You never know what to expect, or what you might see, and that's what makes it great. Those uneasy moments are easily some of the best Beyond has to offer. While many games with horror elements make you want to run away from the unknown, Beyond makes you want to run towards it. In the end, despite no longer being a crime drama, Beyond is still a mystery, and it's one you want to solve.

Even though I still consider Heavy Rain to be my favorite, Beyond: Two Souls is one I actually come back to more often. I've beaten the game four or five times now, and it's great coming back to it around Halloween. It isn't the scariest game out there, but the suspense and the creatures lurking in the shadows makes it an interesting experience that everyone should at least try for themselves. That's why Beyond has claimed number 9 on this list.