Beyond Good and Evil
Beyond Good and Evil raises many questions, but one that stands high above the rest is also the simplest; just what genre is it? Released rather quietly by developers and publishers Ubisoft, BG&E came into the gaming scene, and although it didn’t make much of a stir in the charts, it created an abundance of joy for the gamers wise enough to indulge in its qualities.
You play as Jade, a confident and independent young woman who displays emotions that make her character believable and realistic, and where sex appeal is usually the main focal point for women in games, Jade’s appearance shows her to be determined and full of character. She lives in the beautiful town of Hillys - the game’s setting - and is the central hub to where everything goes on; a mini-metropolis as it were. Jade does not fight alone however, and is joined by her friendly and likeable uncle Peyj, a boar who deeply cares for her, and their relationship makes you genuinely care for them. As you’d expect from Ubisoft, and the games creator Michael Ancel (Rayman), the game is filled with obscure characters and creatures, and Hillyis is not too normal either.
The story is simple, and involves Jade, her camera, and an underground organization. The town of Hillys is constantly being invaded by creatures called the Domz, and when Jade is ‘saved’ by the town’s protectors (The Alpha Sections) it seems everything is okay. Until, that is, you meet the leader of The Iris Network. Gradually you learn about what is really going on in the town of Hillys, and it is your job to expose each piece of vital evidence against a conspiracy so to put the townspeople against the conspirators, and eventually overturn their vicious plans. Once you arrive at the story’s conclusion, it feels sad that it has to end, and this is testament to how great a game BG&E is.
The story unfolds for a generous amount of time and while neither long nor short, its many mini-games and sub-quests gives the player more than enough play-time. The main game focuses on three areas of Hillys that need to be explored and investigated, and these areas are brimming with undiscovered joys. One area, the Slaughterhouse, needs to be entered via a hover boat race, and this clever and original gate of entry makes the world feel even more connected and authentic. Once you reach the final area you experience strange locations and the spectacle of the last scenario is highly memorable.
While making your way through the story you experience many factors of other, recognisable genres. The game holds elements of puzzling, platforming, racing, stealth, fighting amongst many others, and strangely they all work brilliantly within each other and never seem out of place. This mix of genre makes everything even more real, and makes the world of Hillys even more believable.
The main game can be completed by almost anyone of any gaming skill, and so is largely user-friendly. The stealth sections don’t demand much of the player and can be finished with ease. The races will not take more than a few goes to beat, and the boss fights don’t take long to be sussed out and finished. Though an easy game is not necessarily a bad thing, and the multitude of things that the player can do more than makes up for the game’s difficulty.
The town of Hillys is full of things to do, and while it is the setting for the main story to unravel, it also holds many side-delights that players can enjoy, such as frantic circuit races in your trusty hover boat, addictive mini-games in bars, smuggler chases, and taking photos of the many creatures that populate Hillys to help the local science centre. The hunt for pictures of all the animals is one of the main parts of the game, and seeing the various creatures in their natural habitat is a delight that little games could match. Their design is fascinating, and the originality of certain creatures in nothing but the best – there’s even a small creature that gives a nod to the creator’s famous franchise; Rayman. The town is home to many individual NPCs, as it really feels like the town is alive and breathing, selling food to be used for health in the market, sailing boats in the wide ocean, and flying planes in the endless sky.
Beyond Good and Evil sports a rather appealing cartoony fashion, standing out most in the more obscure environments, which is what you would expect from Ubisoft. The vibrant world of Hillys can’t help but be looked at in awe, and just asks for photos of its scenic vistas (late on in the game you are able to see Hillys in its entirety, and its beauty shines for all to see, naturally). The game works on a day to night cycle too, so you are able to see the pleasant hues change as time goes on. Animation is solid, and characters act and react as you would expect. Jade in particular moves in her own style that distinguishes her from other game stars. Expressions display emotions as accurately as ever, and again makes everything more realistic and human.
The sound is some of the best you’ll hear this gen, with epic orchestral songs that create emotion, and high tempo rock for when the acrobatic fights break out. The introduction uses music that stays in the memory, and if the game is replayed you can’t help but smile when you hear it again. Subtle sound effects are used to make the game feel more real, and the voice acting that accompanies the excellent animation is superb. Jade speaks with a dominant, serious tone and you care for her as her voice changes with the elements of the story. Peyj, too, speaks like you genuinely expect a talking boar would. The game’s secondary characters all have individual charismatic voices, and where most games these days use dull voices that couldn’t be distinguished from one another, BG&E stands out in this aspect, and the voice acting on the whole is professional.
While BG&E is easy to finish, its replay value is fantastic, and with the addition of the sub-quests there are more than enough things to do second time round. Cleverly, the games save system gives the player a code which can be entered into a website that scores that player’s progress amongst thousands of other players, and so again you are given another reason to get the most out of the game.
If there are any negatives, then some of the levels can feel a tad dull and industrialised. This is exemplified when contrasted with some of the more organic, colourful environments. Additionally, the stealth sections appear too frequently, and can get annoying. Also, sometimes it becomes unclear to what you are meant to do to progress in the story, and you can end up going in circles hoping to find something that will push the story. The difficulty, depending on how you look at it could be seen as a good thing or a bad thing, and so if you’re a purist who likes your games hard as nails than maybe this game won’t suit your liking too much, and you’ll finish it all too easily and quickly. Though these are small niggles in comparison to the greatness of the game.
Beyond Good and Evil is a game like no other, and while many aspects of its design are unoriginal snippets of genre, they all blend into each other to create something truly original. The view that games are often seen as emotionless can be put to rest here. Beyond Good and Evil creates something unexplainable, an experience that all those lucky to play it can share, and will stick in the mind of gamers worldwide for years to come.
Nine out of ten
- Engrossing story with utterly believable characters.
- Refreshing mix of things to see and do
- Vibrant world, full of life and variety
- Superb musical score
- Main story could be considered short
- Difficulty a tad on the easy side