Game Review: Beyond Good & Evil PDF Print E-mail
Written by Adam (Vergil)   
Thursday, 14 September 2006
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Over the last few days, my parents took off on a trip, leaving me stranded alone in a town where all of my friends are somewhere else.  So, I thought what better way to kill 4 days then blow through some fun console game and see if I could do it within my time limit.

Well I did… barely.  The parents return tomorrow afternoon and I just finished the title of choice: Beyond Good & Evil.  I was originally going to try and play Disgaea: Hour of Darkness.  Then I found out that if GameStop ever has it, they can charge me $70 for it.  Then I looked on Amazon and found out the cheapest they have it for is $115!!! O_O

Suffice it to say, we needed a new plan.  Luckily, on the same trip to GameStop I found that out, I finally saw a Gamecube copy of Beyond Good & Evil for sale for cheap, so I picked it up.

Beyond Good & Evil is a title that came out around the same time Prince of Persia and one of the Splinter Cells did, being one of the reasons reviewers started telling us to keep an eye on Ubisoft that year. While reviews for Beyond Good & Evil were generally outstanding (X-play reminds us how awesome of a game it was at every chance they get), I hear it tanked in sales, which saddens me since that means they’ll probably never make a sequel.  Probably another case of quality product that gets lost in the glut of everything else that came out that particular holiday season.

In any case, I’ve wanted to play this game for some time, but did not want to put up with the anticipated inferior experience of the PS2 and wanted to play it on the Gamecube.  Besides, my Gamecube hasn’t been getting enough love lately what with Soul Calibur 3 and Kingdom Hearts 2 and the Jak games taking up my console time as of late. Now that I finally had the Gamecube version in my grasp, for less than $20, I decided it was time to give it a go.

I’m gonna be straight with you up front: I was able to clear the game in about 10 and a half hours and the ending leaves you wanting.  The game also gives no obvious replay value, though apparently there are some things I can do if I mess around on the game’s website and collect all the pearls in the game, though they both sound like mini-games, nothing substantial.  Taking these things into consideration, had I paid $50 for this game, I might be disappointed at the short length.  However, I didn’t even pay $20, so let’s take these flaws out of the equation for a moment.

Beyond Good and Evil (hereafter just BG&E) has you playing as Jade, a free lance reporter on a small, once peaceful world, that has been caught up in a war between an alien menace and a military organization known as “The Alpha Sections.” The game starts by throwing you headfirst into things, and then slowly guiding you into the game’s main plot.  It seems not all is as it seems on the planet Hillys, and Jade becomes a powerful asset for an underground new group, called the IRIS Network, seeking to uncover the evils of the Alpha Sections.  But what just are the Alpha Sections up to, and can you trust IRIS?  I’ll leave these things for you to find out on your own.

BG&E plays out like a weird mix between a Zelda game, a platformer, and an espionage game. The inspiration the 3D Zelda games have had on BG&E is obvious, especially in the combat and some of the puzzle solving strategies. However, the game includes just as much sneaking around and is more mission driven than your typical Zelda game. The plot also doesn’t tell like a Zelda game, and never says “here’s the part where you just do a bunch of dungeons in a row for the sake of doing dungeons.”  I guess the game feels like if you took Zelda, Metal Gear Solid, and George Orwell and threw them all into a melting pot, you’d get something like this.

The combat in BG&E is over all light feeling. The controls are very simple and the game doesn’t offer you a whole lot of complex options.  This is fine though since in the end combat is not the only focus of the game.  The game also includes elements of espionage, puzzle solving, driving, racing, and vehicular combat.  It even includes some flying stuff near the end that is quite fun.  So while none of these features are overly developed, they are all really easy to get into, allowing you to keep flowing with the action rather than fumbling over new controls, like I know some people do when going between flight and ground modes in Star Fox assault. It may be simple, but that’s not to say it isn’t fun, and also not challenging.  If you mess up a room you should be stealthy in, chances are your best bet is to run away since fighting your way through will probably get you killed. 

Additionally, if you die, rather than being sent back to a save point, the game restores you near where you died at half of your max health.  While this prevents frustration, it also makes the game almost too forgiving.  I don’t know that I want to send all the way back to my last save if I die, but making me redo a few rooms in a row or something might not be bad.  I dunno, maybe I blew through all the real tricky parts in one pass so maybe I just got lucky or something.

Probably the most important non-combat tool Jade has is her camera.  Not only is it critical for completing mission objectives, but you can also find out things about enemies, as well as earn bonuses for taking photos of the assorted flora and fauna in the game. The game also provides you a stationary first person interface for when you need to shoot a switch or something, another Zelda like element.

The game also has a colorful cast of characters, and throughout most of it you will be accompanied by at least one of them on your journey.  These back up characters provide you a little extra support in combat, but won’t really hold your hand too much when it comes to sneaking around and taking photos.  You also can’t always depend on them being there for boss battles.  In the end the game is still all about Jade, and her companions are often just a way for the game’s developers to feed you clues when you’re stuck, not unlike the way a GM/DM might throw an NPC into a role-playing game for that purpose.

In the end, BG&E is a really fun game with a pretty cool plot, setting and characters. It’s not the greatest game to come out this generation of consoles by any means, but it’s still a blast, especially if you’re a fan of 3rd person adventure console games.   I just wish there was a little more to it, or maybe that it didn’t end when it did. If Ubisoft never develops this story further, I will be sad, that is for sure. 

I also wish the developers had looked at the game’s approach to having a secondary character with Jade as an opportunity to add co-op play, but that’s just me on my “Not enough games have Co-Op in them” crusade.

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