Beyond Good & Evil

Platform: PS2/Xbox/Gamecube/Xbox 360 (Live Arcade)/PS3 (PSN Store)*
Genre: Action/Adventure
Players: 1
ESRB: Teen (Comic Mischief, Violence)

Beyond Good & Evil is a classic title from the last generation. It was a commercial failure but a critical success, and for good reasons.

The game starts out pretty oddly. Jade is a refreshing female protagonist, and her porcine uncle Pey’j is…different to say the least. The people are all weird – even the human ones – and other people are derived from other animals. So yeah, definitely a little odd. The player gets tossed right into the action with the first encounter against the Domz, which the player quickly eliminates, only to be shortly thereafter introduced to the Alpha Section conspiracy. An engaging plot follows from there for the most part. The heartstrings get pulled on pretty early, which doesn’t do much for that reason – not enough time to really get attached to the characters. The stakes get raised as the game goes on and it throws a couple other emotional loops at you which are more effective and convincing than the first.

First thing of note is the very smooth combat. Jade’s powered-up staff attack isn’t particularly useful for a lot of the game except for strategically bashing enemies, and there isn’t really any back story to why she has this power, so just accept that she fights with a staff and don’t ask questions.

Aside from the combat, Jade’s goal is to take pictures. She sneaks into compounds and photographs evidence, then sneaks back out. Combat is pretty limited in most situations as a stealth approach is pretty much a necessity. However, the idea of taking these pictures of both evidence for your reports and wildlife is cool and interesting. The wildlife is plentiful and photographing it all is a pretty big project and one of the more interesting collectibles I’ve seen in a game.

For a while, the game is pretty cold-cut platforming and puzzle solving with a little combat tossed in, and this can get a little slow. However, it picks up as you go along. There’s a fantastic rooftop chase sequence which signals the game really catching its second wind. The player gets past the dungeon feel and into the stealth stuff and it gets much more fun to play. While the stealth is never particularly complex, it’s sparse enough that it gives the game a feel without getting old in its simplicity.

Even on the HD remake, you can’t invert one axis without inverting the other. This is a massive flaw that can make getting started with this game nearly impossible if you are a look-inverter, and then make it additionally difficult to get adjusted back to your other titles. But go ahead and adapt – it’s well worth it in the end.

The game shows its age at times. The first ‘boss’ battle is just beating the enemy silly with no indication of health or degeneration in the character model. This isn’t always the case, though, as the giant sea serpents are pretty fun to tackle. Age is also apparent in the plot debriefing that tends to happen as opposed to it unfolding in front of you as you play.

The last boss battle is dumb. I’m going to go ahead and say it. I can’t think of how to do this without spoiling the mechanics of the battle, so here goes (no plot revelations occurring): the controls get flipped on you, which is fine. However, suddenly the guy won’t attack you unless you attack first. If you attack the correct direction, it hits the enemy and it moves to a different side. If you attack in the wrong direction, you get hit and start over. You have to complete a sequence of hits to end it. One wouldn’t expect the enemy to not hit you, so if you get hit and stand up, you’ll probably begin swinging at him, but he quickly moves, which means you get hit again, when in the end you should have just patiently waited – completely counter-intuitive. If that doesn’t make any sense – play the game. It’ll make sense.

Beyond all this (haha), the game pretty much rocks. Definitely hits a lull, but picks up very well. Too bad this game was overlooked in its day. Glad to see this HD remake hit, and I hope it grabs a lot of people’s attention. Great to hear that Michel Ancel is working on the second title, though it probably won’t hit until next generation.

Bottom Line: 9/10

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