Beyond Good & Evil remembered

  • Format: PC, PS2, Xbox, GameCube
  • Unleashed:  Out Now
  • Publisher: Ubisoft
  • Developer: Ubisoft
  • Players: 1

With recent news throwing the future of the long awaited sequel to 2002’s Beyond Good & Evil into doubt, it’s time to take a look at why the original game was so beloved by critics and a small section of gamers, yet largely ignored by the masses.

One of the first things that may give you an inkling that Beyond Good and Evil is not your average game is the character of your uncle Pey’j; mostly the fact that he’s a pig. Not the “Oink, Oink” roll around in faeces kind of pig, but the talking, slightly cowardly, yet ultimately loyal and stalwart kind. The sort of pig that could only be dreamed up by an eccentric French game designer. BG&E comes from the mind of Michel Ancel, the same bloke responsible for creating Rayman, but BG&E isn’t just a platform game, in fact it sort of defies normal categorisation, evolving into a sort of third-person journalism-em-up. The player is thrust into the shoes of Jade, a young independent spirit, who shockingly for a female gaming protagonist doesn’t need to rely on a ridiculous bosom and series of revealing outfits to charm the player. She does it instead with, well.. charm. The characters in BG&E are funny, well written and extremely endearing and despite the outlandish appearance of many of them, they’re more human than the majority of characters you might meet in lesser games. They all have their own hopes, fears and motivations and as the story unravels it’s much easier to actually give a damn about them than in many games, where the characters are often just wallflowers or thinly veiled stereotypes.

Which brings us to the games story and how that ties in with the pretty unique blend of gameplay. Jade lives upon the mining planet of Hyllis where humans and weird animal people live in perfect harmony, that is until the evil Dom’Z race of aliens begin to show up and start kidnapping people left right and centre. A pseudo-dictatorship arises going under the moniker of Alpha Sections, vowing to protect the people of Hyllis from this invasion. It soon becomes apparent that Alpha Section are either a bit rubbish at their job, or there’s something a wee bit fishy going on. It’s your task as Jade – a young reporter and wielder of a rather fearsome stick hired by the IRIS underground resistance movement – to find out what’s going on behind the scenes.

You do this via a combination of photography, puzzle solving and hitting things with Jade’s trusty stick (or Daï-jo as it’s apparently called). The camera you’ll soon find is one of the most useful of your tools. It can scan objects and creatures which earns you cash, you can create maps with it, and complete your objectives of finding out just what the crikey is happening to your world. You’ll have to engage in both stealth and combat in the game, both of which are presented in a sort of minimalist, simple yet engaging style. The stealth aspect is surprisingly frustration free as you sneak around taking photographs inside the Alpha Section facilities. The combat and boss fights feel a little bit like a pared down Zelda, with simple button presses and combinations of Jade’s tools or friends being used to defeat your foes, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. For instance, the Alpha Section guards have little air tanks on the back of their suits. If you want to take them out you have to shoot the the tank with your gyrodisk glove, which fires off small projectiles. The combat is quite simple and lightweight, but it’s pitched well and it never gets used to the point of overpowering the experience.

As well as stick, gyrodisk and camera you also start with an upgradeable hovercraft and later grab yourself a spaceship for a spot of moon exploration. Despite all the important investigation and photography, there’s actually a world out there to explore. The game has a free roam element when you hop into your hovercraft. You can explore the towns, search for rare wildlife, and take part in hovercraft races and minigames if they take your fancy – earning yourself a bit of cash along the way. It’s a game then that revels in letting you potter about in-between the storyline missions and while it might not offer the breadth of exploration of, say, Mass Effect, it’s easy to find something fun or interesting to do as you explore the world and chat to the off-kilter inhabitants.

BG&E was sadly ignored on its initial release, but it has garnered something of a cult following. As with most games that inspire such loyalty, it’s because it was very successful at making the people who played it care about the characters and the world they inhabit. The news that a sequel was being made was met with rapture by its fans, the more recent news that it may no longer be happening was like telling a seven year old that Santa Claus isn’t real and that they eat reindeer in Norway. Safe to say parts of the internet were awash with outpourings of grief, anger and disappointment.

It might be hard for fans of the game to accept why Ubisoft seem reluctant to bring us a sequel, but the sad and simple truth appears to be that the original just didn’t sell well enough. An eclectic mix of gameplay types, quirky dialogue and an enchanting world wasn’t quite enough to lure people away from the more mainsteam and well known titles such as Prince of Persia : Sands of Time or Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, which were released around the same time. While both of those franchises are still going strong, Beyond Good & Evil’s future still seemingly hangs in the balance. Even so, with or without a follow-up game we still have Jade’s original adventure and time has yet to diminish its charms, because frankly, talking pigs never get old.

8/10

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Written by Michael J

Michael is a self proclaimed PC gaming fanatic and is equally at home with all genres, bar platformers and puzzle games. Except Bejeweled, he's awesome at that. Seriously, he is totally like second on his Facebook Bejeweled leaderboard. And they said he'd never amount to anything...

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