Beyond: Two Souls is the latest game from Quantic Dream – the innovative sorts behind Fahrenheit and Heavy Rain who are dedicated to making their latest game just as ground-breaking in its depiction of 15 years in the life of Jodie Holmes (played by Ellen Page).
But they’re not content to merely create a staggeringly detailed drama, with myriad plot-lines and movie worthy performances. They’re also set to change the way we play games.
Beyond’s main character is Jodie but she’s also joined to a mysterious entity called Aiden, who players can take control of at almost any time. Naturally, this led the team at Quantic to investigate the possibility of a co-op element, or Duo mode as they call it, using two PS3 controllers.
And this idea led to a further conversation on the topic of accessibility. Through feedback on 2010’s Heavy Rain, the developers had learned that the game had managed to draw in many non-traditional gamers – partners and friends who were happy to sit and watch the cinematic story unfold, making suggestions on what to do in certain situations.
It’s a testament to the unique presentation of that game but also suggested that these non-gamers might like to be more directly involved, through an interface a little simpler than the somewhat intimidating controller. And so, Beyond Touch was born.
It will probably help you play guitar... Enlarge
Essentially, this app (currently available on iOS and soon to launch on Android) turns any touch screen device, tablet or phone, into a second controller for Beyond. As demonstrated by Quantic co-CEO Guillaume de Fondaumiere – you’ll simply choose Duo mode in the menu and then choose which character to assign to the given input. It’s interesting to note here that not only can you have two controllers, or one handset and one controller but you could also assign both characters to your touch based inputs.
In game, you’ll control Jodie or Aiden by sliding your thumb or finger around the touch screen to move. Beyond’s streamlined interface which mostly relies on the right stick has been pared back further on the Touch app, a simple tap on the screen will be enough for most interactions, with a specific input appearing from time to time for more complicated manoeuvres.
While you’re playing on the app, the game will also default to easy mode – helping non-gamers to find their way through the story without presenting too much of a challenge. The game becomes a somewhat more casual interactive experience, especially with two players using the app.
The person currently in control can choose to swap out at any time (with the triangle button on the controller or a highlighted input on the app) letting the other player take over. Beyond doesn’t feature contiguous co-op in the normal sense, but the game does demand the use of Aiden’s powers often enough so that the second player won’t feel left out. And de Fondaumiere was keen to stress that this is the first time you’ve been able to control a console game using just a phone.
The Beyond Touch app is a clever addition to the gaming menu, especially for a title like Beyond: Two Souls with streamlined gameplay and a real focus on story-telling. It another step in integrating less traditional gamers into the experience with minimal effort, helping them to create their own unique stories as they play through the multi-layered plot.
On the other hand, it does risk paring back the element of challenge which is inherent in gaming to a minimal level, bringing up the notion of injecting true casual gaming into the mainstream. If you’re finding the regular controller-based play too difficult, there’s always the temptation to take the app for a spin, removing most of the risk of failure. But any attempt to make the act of gaming more social, and this time without the need for an internet connection, should be applauded.
The Beyond Touch app is available now for iOS (though the game has yet to launch) and is coming soon for Android.
Beyond: Two Souls debuts exclusively on the PS3 from 8th of October in the US and the 11th of October in Ireland and the UK.
Read our interview with David Cage here and all about ourstudio visit to Quantic Dream.