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Spoilers for the Dinner, Night Session and Mission chapters in Beyond: Two Souls

Butch:

Might as well carry on with yesterday’s discussion, ’cause I’ve got nothing new.

Feminina:

Well, going back to the knife thing, I was also thinking about how we’ve talked before about creepy scenes, like the garage, and how in that case the terror was mostly or entirely in our minds (“our” meaning both Jodie, and the player). I was wondering to what extent the creepiness of Aiden’s behavior in your version of this chapter was also partly in “our” minds (in this case mainly you but perhaps also Jodie if she too feels somewhat threatened by his behavior). I mean, if I–having missed the traumatic bar assault–had chosen to cook instead of ordering pizza, would Aiden still have offered me the knife that way, and if he had, would I have read it as merely a genuinely sort-of-helpful “thank you Aiden” moment?

Or would he not have done anything with the knife at all, or would he have done it and it still have seemed really creepy, and if so, how would that have come across to me, coming more or less out of nowhere?

I really am almost tempted to play it again just to explore different iterations of this chapter, but…meh.

It comes back to the question we had earlier in the kid scenes, as to whether or not she finds Aiden frightening.

Did you get locked out of the apartment? If you did, you got the part where she was able, apparently, to force him to let her back in, so she can control him to some extent. Is that control enough that she’s confident he couldn’t actually hurt her? Or does she just trust that he wouldn’t?

Butch:

I’m not sure if he would’ve done it anyway. I mean, you still got a whole lot of Aiden not wanting Ryan around. So it wouldn’t have been completely out of nowhere.

I’m more curious if you would have gotten the message on the mirror, the “you have me.” Again, the trophy I got in the bar was “together forever.” So maybe Aiden wouldn’t have thought Jody “had him” but for that.

And, as for “our” minds, this was, once again, very tropey. It was a knife that would’ve been straight out of the common prop shop for a B horror movie. And that, plus the fact that he “handed” it to her at eye level, point first, could be read as threatening. I read it that way.

But this game has, MAYBE, been doing that with tropes. Doing something that we have assumed is X, but may not BE X. There was no actual proof this was threatening. I just saw “horror movie knife” and jumped to that conclusion, despite the fact that it was a very appropriate knife to be using to make Asian beef and Jody was going to use it and maybe Aiden was just being nice.

This isn’t the first time we’ve wondered that re: tropey things.

Or it could just be lazy and tropey.

But compare to the scene you got and I didn’t: the tea party. He presented you with that all too common horror trope: the disfigured doll, right? And there, too, it was unclear if it was sinister or just clumsy.

Well, at least we did it differently and can compare notes.

We should, at some point, talk on whether we should judge games on other people’s playthroughs. Maybe.

Yeah, I did get locked out, which was an interesting bit. Which maybe, MAYBE, helps me deal with a gameplay quirk that bugs me, and came up a lot in this chapter.

So there are times Aiden does stuff. Breaks mirrors. Picks up knives. Piles up chairs. Locks doors. Disruptive stuff that we have no control over. But then, WHOOSH, during dinner, you, the player, have a choice to either keep doing all the stuff he’s been doing all chapter long….or not. The game makes a bunch of choices on Aiden’s behalf, and then hands you the controller and basically says “Ok, stay in character or not.” That’s been hard to reconcile. What sense does it make that Aiden, during dinner, just changed his mind and decided to stop doing disruptive stuff? Not much, really. But he did, for both of us, because we decided to make different choices than the game was making for Aiden all along.

So I guess I could squint and say “Well, he knows she’d control him,” but that’s a hell of a squint.

And I don’t like having to squint in the first place.

Feminina:

That is awkward, the shift from “Aiden does x y and z to show that he really hates this and is NOT going to change his mind” to “OK, you decide what he does now! Which might include changing his mind!”

I rationalized it by assuming he was moved by her plea to “come on, just do this for me” or whatever she said. I thought “all right, fine, she’s determined to go through with it and she really wants me to behave, so OK.”

Plus I wanted to listen to their conversation. I mean, that doesn’t require too much squinting, right? Aiden might be curious about what Ryan knows/thinks about him, and about how Jodie will present their shared history?

I should have taken a shower so we’d know about the message. But the urgency! I might have run out of time! Though almost certainly not.

Butch:

Fair enough. A genuine plea. Ok. Aiden DOES care about her, after all.

The false urgency is very good. Did you notice there was a way to look at the clock? He said “I’ll be over in an hour, and I looked at the clock and it was 9:24! Which meant nothing! But I FELT like “AAA! Time flies! And the game wouldn’t have given me this clock unless it MATTERED!”

But it likely didn’t matter.

Feminina:

I did see the clock! And yeah, I felt sure it mattered at that moment, although probably it didn’t. I was rushing around convinced that if I took too long, he’d show up before I was ready, and that would be disastrous in some way. Part of why I ordered pizza instead of cooking–I was like “no way I can be sure of having a meal ready AND the place cleaned up in ONE HOUR.”

This game is really a master class in “creating a feeling of urgency.” Even when we’ve been playing for a while and we know it’s not actually a game where you run out of time and that’s failure and you have to reload the challenge, we totally get sucked into it.

Come to think of it, it’s entirely possible that if you do take too long he WOULD show up before you were ready, but it wouldn’t actually be that big a deal. I mean, what would he do, walk out in a huff because the place was a mess or the food wasn’t done? I’m sure he’d come in and be polite and you’d get to whichever ending of the chapter you were going to get to anyway. But it felt so critical!

This game is really good with moods, I think. Especially tense and creepy. But also, in my experience of this chapter, the not really creepy and more nervous fear of messing up. “Oh no, I’m going to ruin this date!”

Butch:

It is good at so much.

And yet…there are things that bug me about it.

I find myself having very extreme feelings about it. The stuff that’s good is REALLY good, but MAN I was angry at the rape scene, and the feelings I get that the reliance on tropes isn’t challenging them so much as just lazy reliance just won’t go away.

I think you got to the level of “This is a really good game.” I’m not entirely there yet. I’m at “This is often a really good game, I THINK this is a really good game,” but if it really is just lazily relying on generally sexist tropes…..

Which I’m not sure it is.

I’m gonna go play.

Feminina:

It’s really quite fascinating how different the overall experience can be based on adding or subtracting a couple of scenes.

And a very interesting question about the game overall…can something BE a good game if it’s only good on certain paths? It’s kind of random that by missing a couple of QTEs, I’ve had such a different experience than you. I will salute the way they’ve managed to get different implications out of what must be substantially the same footage, based on what came before (or sometimes chronologically after, but let’s not confuse ourselves further).

Butch:

Indeed. CAN it be good?

I’ll be VERY interested in this when we get back into LiS imminently.

By the way, looked for Captain Spirit, couldn’t find it. Googled it. It just appears in your library as purchased! Gotta download it, though, so look there.

Whoops, wrong. Go to the LiS2 page in the PS store. It’ll be a “demo.” Download it. But wait to play it.

But played. Got through, what, half the mission? Looking for a minaret with a kid.

So…..what exactly the fuck is with that random “I see dead people” sixth sense shit? That….kinda came the fuck out of nowhere.

If you’re going to do a narrative that’s not chronological, it’s kinda cheating to say “Whelp, I need something in hour 11 that I didn’t need UNTIL hour 11 so I’ll do a kid scene and say ‘She had this all along!'”

Feminina:

The seeing dead people, or more specifically communicating with dead people (since we first got her seeing their final moments back in the Condenser) did kind of come out of nowhere. And yeah, it is super convenient that they can leap back and retroactively make it have been there all along. Retconning in real time!

I would also be kind of curious to play it in chronological order and see how that affects the experience of the story–though I’m still not curious enough to actually do it. Many things make me THINK about replaying this, but nothing quite gets me there.

Because I’m waiting for Captain Spirit!

Also because…I don’t know, I think about replaying and I think about getting a different take on the story, which is intriguing, but I also think about all those random QTEs, and tilting towards the dot to roll over in bed, and getting the dots on the other dot to channel, that were all right at the time, but that I didn’t QUITE love enough to think “I definitely want to do more of that!”

Maybe it’s that the story was the interesting part for me, while the gameplay was perfectly adequate, but not a major draw.

Butch:

I, too, have wondered about the chronological thing. I’ve been trying to mentally piece it together. It would be an interesting experiment.

You do it.

Wait up on Captain Spirit! I MUST be almost done! I don’t have that much room left on the timeline! I think.

The gameplay is not a major draw. True. Fitting for the game, but…

Except for some parts. Like the mission I am doing. It LOOKS like a third person cover shooter, but it isn’t. It’s holding my hand through a third person cover shooter in which I cannot die. It just feels fake. And, oddly, more tedious and unnecessary than the dinner scene. In THAT scene, despite my inability to “fail” in the game sense, we both felt some tension: Am I making the right choices to get him to like me? Am I going to have to dodge that knife? And the tediousness of it built tension. Cuz you KNEW something was gonna happen. Or you strongly suggested it. And you KNEW there would be a percentage at the end, and you wanted it to be the “good” one. Or at least the one you wanted.

This? It’s just “Ok…where’s the next X for cover…there. Ok. X. Now, ok, he’s red, go get him. Ok…next X…Ok. X.”

Again, I ask: are they making a point? That making dinner for a date is somehow “more stressful” than this CIA shit? Or just bad design? WHY DO I KEEP ASKING THAT?????

I WILL say that I got a lot more tense now that I’m with a kid.

Speaking of the date…..

So at the start of the mission, you, once again, have a chance to smooch Ryan, and I did. And then Jody was all “We still have time before I go…” all bedroom eyes. And I was thinking “Uh…ok. Guess she got over her issues. Somehow. Whatever.”

A little bit off.

Feminina:

Oh man, I didn’t even think of that! Yeah, for me kissing Ryan before the mission made sense, but for you, that’s just weird.

AWKward transition, game.

And I totally agree, the mission chapter was odd. I had that same sense of “well, this is the 3rd-person shooter part of the game,” but as you say, it lacked the familiar stakes of the shooter, in that you couldn’t actually get caught and die.

I thought it did an OK job of being a bit tense in spite of that, I didn’t hate this part (and there’s some more story stuff going on as you advance), but I was definitely a bit removed from the tension.

Butch:

Right! Made perfect sense for you. Weird they included it for me.

You couldn’t get caught here, and you couldn’t really ponder it. Uncharted, TR, even ME, you look at all the Kevins and think it through. This? Two Kevins at a time, and the game pretty much tells you what to do. There’s no strategy, and that takes a lot out of it.

It’s kind of a bummer cuz the game COULD have given you some agency to pick how to proceed. There’s different tools at your disposal! Takedowns, takedowns from above, possession, choking, throwing things, guns. That’s more than enough to have a good third person shooter level! Missed opportunity, I think.

Yeah. This game takes too much away from the player at times.

Feminina:

It’s true, there are very limited ways to approach the challenges in this chapter, which also makes it a sort of limited copy of a shooting/action game. It’s “go there, get that guy in this specific way” more than “figure out how to get past these guys.”

Which is really in keeping with this game in general…many times there’s not a CHOICE, there’s just something you need to do to move the story forward. Like take a book from Dawkins, for example.

That approach just fits oddly with our expectations for action-game scenarios, I guess.

Butch:

Right. Which begs the question: Why have the action sequences?

This whole level is like

“Well….this is a video game…so..uh..Kevin! Get over here!”
“What can I do for you?”
“Well….you haven’t really been in this yet….”
“I know. Didn’t you get a call from my agent?”
“Yeah, yeah. I’ve been meaning to call him back….”
“Bullshit.”
“Hey, look. You want a a part in this or not?”
“Only if you say it.”
“Oh, Kevin, c’mon…that’s so juvenile.”
“Say it.”
****Sigh**** “If I must. Kevin, it’s just not a video game without you.”
“Was that so hard? Now…show me my level.”

In other news, just to keep up with the whole David Cage theme, seems that the game that vaulted Cage to stardom, Heavy Rain, is free this month! All things Cage!

So grab it. We’ll get to it after a short break to be moody teenagers.

Feminina:

It’s true we don’t want to put Kevin out of work. But as for why have the level at all — it does actually serve a purpose in the story other than just employing Kevin. I don’t argue with it on that basis. There may be other grounds on which to quibble with it, but see what you think when you’re done.

Heavy Rain, eh? Remind me constantly and maybe I’ll get around to it.

Butch:

At least chuck it in your library while it’s free.

With everything else I have that I’ve forgotten about.

But you liked Beyond so much I figure you’ll want to play this one. Especially if it’s free.

Feminina:

You had me at free.