Zadzooks: Beyond: Two Souls review

Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe star in a virtual universe

Ellen Page co-stars in the visually stunning video game Beyond: Two Souls for the PlayStation 3.Ellen Page co-stars in the visually stunning video game Beyond: Two Souls for the PlayStation 3.
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Gamers looking for the latest in interactive cinema will find a controller-gripping, supernatural thriller in Beyond: Two Souls (Sony Computer Entertainment America and Quantic Dream, rated Mature, $59.99).

Exclusive to the PlayStation 3, the latest creation from Quantic Dream (known for the 2010 gritty Heavy Rain) takes a much more emotional and paranormal rather than noirish approach to the story as a player controls the mysterious CIA Agent Jodie Holmes (played by Oscar nominee Ellen Page) and her spiritual companion Aiden.

Both go on a worldwide quest against evil unleashed from the Infraworld (a bridge between the living and afterlife) while Jodie tries to understand the bond to her ghostly friend.

Suffice to report, for those willing to appreciate a 10-hour-long movie, have I got a video game for you.

Taking place over a 15-year period in Jodie’s life (from age 8 to 23), the design strips away much of the standard fare used in a typical third-person adventure game and replaces it with numerous contextual actions (pressing button sequences), interacting with highlighted hotspots in an environment, fleeting conversations with individuals and the most basic of movements.

A player, rather more director, can maneuver Jodie and allow her to interact by flicking at white orbs in a location using the controller’s analog stick. That includes combat as her world slows down and a player simply moves the stick toward the direction of an enemy’s attacks.

Her creepy companion Aiden is much more aggressive. When called upon, the screen turns hazy around the edges and a sparkling blue globule emanates from Ellen tethered to her by an energy stream.

Now, the player moves from a third- to first-person perspective and can rapidly fly around, even through walls. Blue orbs are now interaction points, and moving analog sticks in tandem with triggers  can deliver a desired result.

Aiden’s powers allow it to take over and possess individuals, choke and blast enemies, shield Jodie from bullets, heal her and even retrieve a recent memory of a traumatic event (a very slick maneuver).

So what exactly does Aiden’s help, or interference, mean in terms of controlling the life of Jodie and her daily minutia that includes hugging a stuffed animal, throwing a snowball, restlessly turning in a bed, taking a shower, playing a guitar and cooking a meal, to name a few moments?

As an example, early on in the story, a teen Jodie stops by a birthday party. A player must answer questions from a young suitor and decide if he can have a quick kiss and fondle. She must choose which type of music to play on a boom box. And when her peers turn on her and lock her under a stairwell, Jodie gets her “Carrie” moment.

Aiden can cause mayhem that any poltergeist would be proud potentially resulting in the spirit burning down her new worst friend’s house.

Of course, this set of maneuvers get more complicated as the story continues while evil entities invade, and choices can lead to a possible two dozen resolutions to the drama.

The outstanding motion capture of Miss Page and her surrogate father and research scientist Nathan Dawkins (played beautifully by Willem Dafoe) never stops amazing. Detail down to Miss Page’s watery eye orbs, pouty, chapped lips and freckles are just jaw-dropping.

Additionally, both actors deliver noteworthy performances amidst a fragmented plot that jumps across time periods of Jodie’s life.

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