July 13, 2006
Genre: Text Adventure (I.F.)
Release Date: 2005
Beyond is an interactive fiction game composed by Roberto Grassi, Paolo Lucchesi and Alessandro Peretti. This game has been awarded the second place in the last IF Competition and can be played with either a z-machine or a Gluxle interpreter, such as WinGlulxe. I would greatly suggest the latest option, since it will allows you to experiment the game as its best, that is with all the artwork options turned on. And indeed, the game has much to offer in this aspect. However, do not expect neither video sequences like those you can find in Future Boy! norSyberia-like backgrounds, let alone the sheer colorful combination of photographs available in Robb Sherwin’s games (i.e. Necrotic Drift). The art in Beyond is minimalistic, working by sustraction and by a careful and clever combination of static drawings matching both fonts and backgrounds. A good note is that each time you talk to a character, its portrait appears in a side of the screen. The portraits are very well done, really helping the player to get into the story.
When playing the game it is quite clear that the authors made a clear desicion in terms of overall game design from the very beginning of the development and really kept faithful to it till its end. I mean, the game shows a great level of homogeneity and coherence between its different parts. Interestingly, exception being made for the story and character development, nothing else (for example, puzzles) is really mind-blowing nor revolutionary (well, in a second thought, maybe I’m being too hard here, see below for comments in some interesting innnovations the game has to offer). But at the same time everything is polished, works well and fits in with the general aesthesic and pace of the game, so creating a very atmospheric and well-balanced experience that gets you hooked from its very beginning.
The story has many twists and hidden agendas going on, so it is sort of difficult to tell much of it without spoiling it. Your character is a girl wich happens to be in a place (dimension? Alternate reality?) reserved to those who have never been born. Maybe their mother died during an accident or was killed or any alternative possibility that you could think. In that place you are faced with a hard choice: either to find peace inmediately or to have a look –through the eyes of someone else related to your death—at the circumnstaces sorrounding that death in order to acquire a bit of knowledge about your possible life and fate. Supossedly, you are not allowed to change the events by following that path, but... maybe... you could make some space to it or help someone in the way. Of course, you decide to return to life. From that point on, you will be mainly in control of the detective who’s in charge of investigating the apparent suiscide of a young woman, who was found with her wrists cut open in a cheap hotel’s bathtub. As you may have already noted, the game deals with many adult issues. Hence, it is not suitablen or reccomendable for young children.
While the richness of the story allows for plenty of suspects and possible avenues of research, you shouldn’t have problems winding up the game. Beyond features a notepad that keeps track of your findings and latest events. Moreover, the game is divided in several chapters, each one allowing you to explore a small subset of enviroments, so reducing backtraking and minimizing the number of possibilities to try. Even more interesting, the game offers a very creative online-help system. Whenever you get stuck you may want to type “hint” and your character will be transported to a room –whose existence makes sense in the context of the story—where you will be able to examine certain objects and extract directions and pointers from them. Another sign of the “organicness” I already rambled about. But don’t be afraid, there are just a few traditional puzzles in the strict meaning of the word and they are definitely logical and not very difficult.
The writing is top-notch and, as said earlier, shines when it comes to character development. Most of the them have a lot of dialogue lines to offer –even though it should be said that dialogue options are fixed— and in them you will find not only emotions but also motives to back up their behaviors.
To cut a long story short, Beyond is not a game that aims to change the genre or to replace old classics, but at the same time fullfills each and every one of the goals that undertakes, offering a compact and solid story with many of the most charming characters I have seen in the last time in text adventures. I gladly reccomend this game not only to text adventures gamers but also to anyone interested in enjoying a good story. Beyond receives a grade of B+ from this reviewer.
Final Grade: B+