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About the Story
A mysterious death, a secret to be revealed… and someone who wants to know the truth, at any cost.
“Oh, another nice question… Well, look at the glass boxes… look inside them… Many say that the answer is inside yourself. WRONG, my dear, I completely disagree. I always say that the answer is inside a glass box. Or… let’s say… a yellow bag. But, unfortunately, we don’t have any yellow bag at the moment…”
Winner, Best Story; Winner, Best Individual Puzzle; Nominee, Best Individual PC - 2005 XYZZY Awards
The early stages of Beyond successfully invoke world-weariness, wistfulness for what might have been, and a compelling investigative urgency, but the endgame turns into something different, more garish and obvious and inferior to the understated early sequences. (Michael A Russo)
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Beyond is by the trio of Roberto Grassi, Paolo Lucchesi, and Alessandro Peretti. The game tied for second place in the 2005 IF Competition, and won two XYZZY awards that year for best story and best individual puzzle. You play as Elena, an unborn child who can choose to discover how she came to non-existence. From here the game alternates between chapters where she observes the police detective assigned to her mother’s death, and chapters where Elena interacts with her psychopomps. The game is well programmed, I did not notice any bugs, and only had one parser problem which the walkthrough quickly sorted out. (Spoiler - click to show)Using the Magnifying glass tripped me up a bit. If you get the glass after getting the photos in Anna's bedroom you can't “USE GLASS” or USE GLASS ON PHOTO” but turns out that X PHOTOS or X STAIN will automatically use the glass once you have it. The walkthrough says “X PHOTO WITH GLASS” which of course also works. The hint system memorably consists of Elena teleporting back to the afterlife zone where she can examine objects which give clues of what is expected of you.
The writing is solid, but not very memorable. I felt there was little bringing the Northern Italian village setting to life, descriptions of things seemed rote and could apply to any random hotel or church. This could be something lost in translation, as the game was originally in Italian. Puzzles tie into the story at hand and are rather simple and straightforward. With a few exceptions there is little to explore beyond the task at hand. It feels a bit driven on rails, although the charm and novelty of the story ensures it’s a very nice drive. I’m not entirely sure how it won for best puzzle in 2005 (Spoiler - click to show)(for Following the murderer) as the game pretty much explicitly states what you are to do at that moment. The idea behind the puzzle was unique though.
The highlight of this game is the certainly the story. The alternating chapter format melds together the two halves of this tale: the story of the death, and the emotional heart of what the death took away. I feel they turned the dial up to 11 towards the end of the story, (Spoiler - click to show)(DEMON WORSHIPERS!!!!) but it was engaging throughout. Definitely a game worth experiencing.
A spoilery discussion of the later story and some pedantic theology: (Spoiler - click to show)So the game starts in a very-unCatholic imagining of the afterlife and alternates this with the murder investigation in a tiny Italian Catholic town. And then it turns out it was the priest, who is secretly worshiping Lilith, the demoness first wife of Adam. I can't help but feel that this almost cartoonish exaggeration of the evils of man detracts from the overall story. A priest illicitly sleeping with a parishioner then demanding she have an abortion is awful without even a hint of supernatural worship. I feel a priest still believing himself righteous Christian after all of that is a more engaging story of evil than “yep, just worshiping from the font of evil right here, that's why I did bad things.” I know this is a story of how a supernatural afterlife ties to the mundane life of the living, but Beyond mixes Catholicism and Neil Gaiman-inspired mythos into some kind of hodgepodge. It's still a good story, but I feel like uniting the spiritual elements motivating everyone in this story would have made it better. Or maybe the authors were trying to make a point about spirituality and Catholicism and I missed it. Speaking of Catholicism, it's Pedantic Theology time! Upside-down crosses aren't Satanic in the Catholic rite. It's known as the cross of St. Peter, because (apocryphally) Peter was crucified upside-down. I know the authors of this IF aren't the first to use this symbol as such so... Anyways, for future IF writers putting Satanists in their works, might I suggest the goats head? It's got horns! And square pupils! Nothing's creepier than a goat's eye.
Beyond struck a good chord with me. In this game, you play a sort of spirit that is aiding a detective to investigate the death of someone close to you.
The game is completable in one day. It is divided into 3 or 4 acts, usually with a spirit part and a real-world part.
This game has great puzzles; in fact, it won an award for best puzzle of the year. The plotline is interesting and exciting as well.
However, although the game has several interesting NPC's, scripted events, and other well-done factors, the game feels sparse. Rooms have small descriptions and few items in them. It gives the game a kind of minimalist feel.
I enjoyed the game. There are some PG-13 parts, with both violence and unwanted sensuality, but both are portrayed as negative things.
Melissa Ford and I discuss Beyond at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrYukJxxotQ#t=46m22s
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