The greatest 'diamond in the rough' of last generation?
Review written by
Beyond Good & Evil, a game that simply due to poor timing and marketing, didn't sell (well, that and the rising influx of beer swilling Halo junkies, but that's for an entirely different article).
The game comes from the same guy who created Rayman, Michael Ancel, and was so good that even famed film director Peter Jackson loved it. So what is this game all about anyway?
BG&E casts you (for once) in the role of a female reporter named Jade, who instead of being a silent sex icon like so many game protagonists before her, is simply trying to make ends meet on the colony world of Hillys. Rather than an ideal Jetsons-esque future though, Hillys is presented in a similar fashion to Blade Runner, The Longest Journey's Stark or any other 'realistic' portrayal of what a space colony would really be like if it happened. Jade starts off as an investigative photographer in order to pay the bills for her lighthouse/orphanage but she eventually gets involved in a planet wide conspiracy involving alien invaders known as the Domz and the local militia named the Alpha Squads, with a surprising twist near the end of the game.
Now this type of story may seem familiar, and admittedly it is, but where this game shines is in it's presentation. The entire colony world of Hillys feels like a Don Bluth film come to life, and with more interesting characters too. From Jade's "uncle" Pey'j (a talking pig with jet boots) to Double H (an armor clad military man who rams himself into things to fight), you'll never get bored with BG&E's cast of characters or it's world.
While the story and characters may be interesting, what makes or breaks a game is ultimately it's gameplay. BG&E takes many cues from the 3D Zelda games shamelessly and uses them to great effect. Jade spends most of her time exploring and looking for a way to another area, or in other cases going into the game's version of dungeons. In combat, Jade is equipped with a Bo staff that she uses in a similar fashion to Link and his sword, though there isn't much strategy involved in either aspect of combat. Instead of doing things the Zelda way though, and having most bosses only be susceptible to one specific item, BG&E requires a bit more thinking in the way you take out bosses and most importantly, it requires teamwork. Throughout the game you'll have a partner, and a key aspect of the game involves using their abilities to the fullest and opening new possibilities to the quickly growing stale Zelda formula.
In addition, Jade also has the option of seeking out additional money and pearls (sort of like heart containers) by exploring, winning hovercraft races (and battles), and continuing her photographic endeavors. Unlike Zelda however, the end of the game basically requires that you gather all of these special pearls, but you'll love doing it... hopefully.
As said before, the game has an amazing visual style. However, this does not necessarily equate good graphics; thankfully though, for it's time BG&E has held up quite well compared to other games. Though many aspects of the game might seem somewhat blocky and jagged, the sheer variety of colors and shapes used throughout is enough to make one think that sometimes pushing a million polygons a second isn't essential. I simply can't describe Hillys entirely, a player has to see the game for themselves.
The sound for BG&E is atypical of a game, but manages well. For the most part, you actually won't hear music while cruising around Hillys in a hovercraft. In order to make the game seem more 'real', music is only played in the more action oriented spots of the game, i.e. the dungeons/competitions/chases. You also hear music in shops and bars as would be expected. What music is in the game usually sets the mood, and usually has some sort of jazzy or upbeat tune, but the music isn't as spectacular as other games. The voices on the other hand do an amazing job at portraying each and every character. If they ever make a sequel to the game, almost nobody would want other voices.
That's the main problem with the game though, namely length and possibility of a sequel. The game only clocks in at four 'dungeons' with the pearl collecting sometimes seeming as if it was put there in order to artificially lengthen the game's lifespan. When you finally make it to the end and supposedly save Hillys, you'll learn that not everything is over and those of us who have enjoyed the game have been clamoring for a sequel. Due to overall poor sales though, it isn't likely to happen (though rumors of internal workings at Ubisoft suggest otherwise, cross your fingers!).
If you haven't played BG&E yet, and enjoy action/adventure titles, I implore you to at least try it. There's a good chance you'll find a very cheap copy in your local bargain bin, and you'll be glad that you bought it.
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