Michel Ancel is best known for designing Rayman, one of the most popular videogame characters introduced in the last 10 years. Beyond Good & Evil is Michel Ancel's first original game since doing Rayman, and one he can be proud of. Unfortunately, the game buying public didn't agree with this vision during the Christmas season, resulting in poor sales of Beyond Good & Evil. You could blame it on Sony gaining exclusivity of the title in 2003, but the real faults lay in Ubi Soft's poor marketing and the uninspired design of the game itself. Read on to find out more.
Jimmy Olsen Wannabes
Jade is a young woman who lives on the planet of Hyllis with her uncle Pey'j (not blood related, obviously) and a bunch of orphaned children that they look after together. Hyllis is under constant attack from a species known as the DomZ. The DomZ are constantly held back from destroying Hyllis by a group known as the Alpha Sections. The IRIS network claims that everything isn't as it seems, and that the DomZ and Alpha Sections are in league with each other and are constantly kidnapping Hyllians. After an attack on their lighthouse, Jade and Pey'j receive a job that will send them on a journey of epic proportions.
After the action-packed introduction, Beyond Good & Evil will take you through the process of learning the game's moves. You'll notice that the game has a very relaxing pace, and this can be quite soothing after hours of playing games with non-stop action sequences. The game is focused much more on discovery and adventure as opposed to dungeon crawling and fighting. There are fights in the game, but the engine is relatively simple, much like Rareware's Star Fox Adventures (unfortunately). During these fight sequences; you are usually accompanied by a partner. Your partner is mostly a liability (as you have to share your heart containers with them), but also possesses a special attack which can get you out of sticky situations. Your partner also comes in handy when it comes to solving the game's wide array of puzzles. Puzzles can be quite frustrating in places, but most experienced gamers won't have any trouble flying through them with ease.
Beyond Good & Evil is split up into four main sections with a few filler sections in between. These main sections are similar to the dungeons that you would see in a Zelda game, though the objectives are virtually the same for each one. Jade is a photographer, and hence is armed with a camera. You use the camera for several purposes, but you'll mostly be taking pictures. Pictures of different things fulfill different purposes - you need to take pictures to complete your objectives, to catalog the wildlife on the planet and to decrypt security codes. Taking some time out from the main quest to capture pictures of the animals is quite a treat, and really adds to making the game a more relaxing experience.
Jade's main method of transport around Hyllis comes in the form of a hovercraft. By collecting pearls (the game's black market currency which you can earn by finding them or exchanging full rolls of film), you can take your craft to the Mammago Garage, and have it modified. The hovercraft is also used in the game's racing experiences, which are pretty much the same as any action/adventure game's racing sections.
Beyond Good & Evil isn't a very long game, nor is it very challenging. The average gamer can expect to play for about 8 hours before encountering the game's finale, though there are a number of things to collect to finish the game completely, such as the pearls and the complete album of animals. There is also an amusing minigame which can be found in the bar, which can be unlocked for two players, if you're good enough.
Character Design 101
The most disappointing feature of Beyond Good & Evil is the character design. Seriously - talking pigs, hippos with Jamaican accents, the no nonsense independent female - these characters look like they were taken directly from the first chapter of a book on character design. The original design for Jade was more like Disney's Pocahontas - and much more unique than the generic woman we were blessed with. Ubi Soft may be regretting their decision to change the character - they stated that they changed Jade so that she would appear more desirable to the common consumer - doesn't look like it worked guys!
Beyond Good & Evil's art style more than makes up for the game's lacking character design. The game world is thing of beauty, packed with beautiful scenery and rich environments. The camera is competent and the framerate constantly sticks around 60 frames per second with occasional drops. The game is shown in a cinematic style, with black borders above the top and bottom of the screen. These are not the traditional PAL conversion borders, but more like those seen on a DVD.
The music of Beyond Good & Evil is an aural treat, combining both stunning orchestral medleys and electronica into an excellent ensemble. The voice acting and the script are also impressive, reflecting the game's high production values. Beyond Good & Evil's sound does a great job of helping the player relax, and sink into the world of Hyllis.
Beyond a Good Bargain
Beyond Good & Evil is a highly competent title that's held back by a clichÃ© story and amateurish character design. The game is still an enjoyable experience nonetheless, due to its high production values and relaxing pace. The fighting sections are a little too simple, but tend to be outweighed by the enjoyment of just being able to go with the flow and take pictures of animals. Beyond Good & Evil may not be the game of the year, but it shouldn't be missed, especially at its new budget price point.