|Beyond Good & Evil|
Release Date: Out Now
I couldn't wait to play this game; knowing that Beyond Good & Evil comes from Michel Ancel, the creator of the critically acclaimed Rayman series, it had immediate appeal. Whilst I was never a great fan of the weird Rayman character himself, the excellent gameplay mechanics and the level design of the games always shone through, so a fantasy adventure with a more identifiable set of characters, set in a huge world sounded good to me…
The vast, peaceful planet of Hyllis has fallen under siege by a relentless alien race. After a desperate struggle to defend her island, a Hyllian named Jade collapses in exhaustion - only to be tormented by disturbing visions. Despite public assurances that the planet has been secured, Jade begins to suspect that there's more to these invasions than the government has disclosed. When a rebel organization reinforces her doubts, Jade begins a harrowing journey to get to the core of the conspiracy. Armed with her camera, aikido staff, and resolute investigative skills, Jade sets out to expose the truth and to liberate the minds of her deceived people…
So you control Jade (and yeah, I said armed with her camera), she's a bit of a reporter/photographer see, and before long you'll be snapping all kinds of weird creatures in order to catalogue them all and earn some dosh - the rarer they are the more you get paid for the picture. Jade's camera is a pretty sophisticated piece of kit; it can store and transmit photos and reports, and receive information and emails. A database also gives you info on objects or creatures that are out of your line of sight. You can even scan maps with it to help you find your way around. You even get a super-zoom lens so you can take decent photos from afar, or get close-ups of small creatures.
Jade lives in a lighthouse on an Island in Hyllis with her strangely incongruent family that would appear to be made up of orphans. Accompanied on your adventures by your uncle Pey'J (he's a bipedal pig by the way), you first explore the island, then repair his hovercraft so you can then leave the island and get all over the sizable city and its surrounding area. As you explore you find new creatures, new keys and earn more cash to buy upgrades for the hovercraft, which allows access to new areas.
BG&E's control system is simplicity itself, so much so in fact that for a while it felt to me like Jade did too much herself - from climbing to combat, platform sections and even the camera, the game seems to do a lot of things automatically that other games make you do - but after a while you realise that you're enjoying the story and the unfolding adventure so much that maybe this is the way that games are supposed to be played; for instance Jade comes across several areas that require a stealthy, sneaky approach, and BG&E pulls these sections off with aplomb - teaching the big guns (Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell to name but two) a thing or two about how to make stealth tense, exciting but infinitely playable, understandable and straightforward all at the same time.
BG&E's graphics are solid and detailed, and have a charm all of their own. Hyllis is a big (mostly water covered) area, and yet you can see most of it from any high vantage point with the assistance of your zoom lens. Birds, fish and other creatures are everywhere, some you'll recognise (and some you definitely won't), and aircraft and ships buzz all over the sea and sky and give the place a real feel of a living, breathing world, a world that you'll want to investigate just about every corner of.
The characters are typically weird but charming (you'll even find some of the enemies and the amusing way you dispatch them endearing). There are a few sub games (including racing) and although BG&E isn't the exactly the longest game in the world, once finished you seem to have done an awful lot, and will have enjoyed the journey immensely. The game never gets anywhere bordering what I'd call difficult or forces you to replay large sections as save points are regularly spaced, and even the toughest boss battles are unlikely to need more than a couple of attempts to master - it's clear that Michel Ancel and his team wanted everyone to see the entire, charming game. BG&E manages to supply excitement, violent encounters and tense moments without the need for shotguns, sniper rifles, rocket launchers or snapped necks, and there are a lot of games out there that were good, but could have been great if they'd been more like Beyond Good & Evil.
- Huge, non-linear play area.
- Endearing, likeable characters that you actually care about.
- Excitement without blood, gore and guts.
- Clever use of the camera.
- Many different styles of play in one game, all beautifully integrated.
- Clever level design and puzzles.
- May be too easy and simplistic for 'hardcore' platform game fans. Hyllis is huge, but could have been huger.