• Beyond Good and Evil Review - Microsoft Xbox

    There aren't many things that can be described as Beyond Good and Evil. You could argue this is accurate of the Pope, or the odd Arch Bishop, but not a computer game. Except in this case we have something that is beyond good (or, at, least above average), and evil in terms of some of the level design.
    You play the part of Jade, a freelance photographer who lives in a lighthouse in the city of Hyllis. Alas, the Hillians are at war with an alien race known as the Domz. Unfortunately, the crack military elite squadron responsible for protecting Hillian citizens, the Alpha Section, never seems to be around at the right time. This leads the growing underground movement, IRIS, to become suspicious. They recruit Jade to find out just what they're up to and get the photographic evidence out on the streets. Corruption in politics? Who'd have thought of such a thing?

    BG&E, a release across all major platforms, is largely an action adventure; there are puzzles to be solved and dungeons to explore, but also racing action, shooting sections, platform stages and stealth levels. Fortunately you are not alone in your quest. For much of the game you're accompanied either by Pey'J, a half-human, half-pig mechanic, or Double H: an IRIS operative embodying all the sci-fi hero clichés. Both characters are well developed and fun to interact with, and are also essential to helping you progress through the game.

    To get to different parts of the world, Jade has use of a hovercraft. If you so desire, you can diverge from the main quest and enter in the hovercraft-racing cup. With only four races to win, it's not a big diversion but it is still fun nevertheless. As you progress further, you will need to upgrade your machine at Mungo's garage, buying such upgrades as weaponry and the ability to hop in order to reach further areas of the map. Unfortunately these cowboys only accept pearls as currency, of which there are nearly to collect, but they can sometimes be difficult to find.

    The world of Hillys is a sizable place, and it's beautifully rendered. The whole game has graphical flair lavished upon it. Characters are well animated and their facial expressions are believable. Shadows get cast against the walls, and water reflects its surroundings. The environment isn't just a visual thing; you'll be using shadows and fog as part of your strategy in the stealth sections as well, making you feel part of the story rather than just playing a video game. There's a very cinematic experience to it, further helped by the cut scenes and letterbox format (sadly for widescreen TV owners, it's not anamorphic).

    The cinematic feel of the game is also emphasised by the flowing nature of the camera, with the position really helping you to see the abundance of detail in the game world. For the most part the camera lets you see the action, but occasionally you're unable to move it from its static viewpoint. This can irritate a little, but it's not a major flaw; you’ll not be getting frustrated with controlling Jade on the Xbox version.

    The creatures that inhabit the game world are many and varied. One of the side quests is to photograph them all. Some are tiny and some are huge, some lurk in the dark, others like the bright light. Some of them you will need to fight, and some of them are merely there for cuteness' sake. Even watching some of the creatures move around can be interesting; each one has its own strangely familiar, yet alien, poise to it.

    Much of the fighting is melee combat whereby Jade uses her dai-jo stick to bash enemies into submission. Also hidden up her sizeable sleeves is a light disc weapon for ranged attacks. There are a number of boss fights at various stages of the game; a combination of melee and range attacks is needed to defeat these. The combat system isn't particularly heavy or technical, but it works well and seems to suit the game's style.

    Some of the puzzles in BG&E will have you tearing your hair out, though their solutions are tangible and never obscure. Certain stealth sections are particularly tricky, but it doesn't get to the point of frustration, and difficultly is adjusted to the right balance, making you want to retry a failed section rather than switch the game off. The retry points are placed at sensible places to prevent a lot of repetitive adventuring.

    With the different mix and match of game styles, BG&E could easily have become disjointed. Thankfully it's all handled with panache, even the control panel having been designed with a great deal of ingenuity. The interface is very intuitive, making it easy to enter codes or examine and move items from one character to another.

    A lot of thought has gone into the sound design too. The voice acting is done well, and the soundtrack covers all manner of different genres. From choral to rock to orchestral pieces, each locale has an appropriate signature tune. A sound track CD of this game would be superb.

    The story is interesting enough to keep your focus throughout the game. Although the plot twists aren’t exactly unexpected, you'll want to know how the tale ends, but this leads to the only major problem with the title: its length. Even having covered the side quests and secret areas this game will be over in less than fifteen hours. Like a roller coaster, it maybe short but it's a thrilling ride.

    BG&E may well steal ideas from Zelda and Starfox Adventures, but it doesn't ever feel like a second hand title. There's enough originality on offer to warrant a purchase, particularly in terms of storyline. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes this game enjoyable, as it doesn’t come down to a single element. It looks lovely, it sounds great, the story is entertaining and it plays well. What more could you want from an action adventure?

    Score: 7/10
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. k0pp0's Avatar
      k0pp0 -
      I enjoyed this when it was re-released for xbox.. nice little game.
    1. charlesr's Avatar
      charlesr -
      Played through the first couple of hours with my son on the GC last week. Such a beautiful selection of creatures to photo. Gameplay not too taxing, but very varied.
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