Oozing with Charm and Personality to Create a Great Experience
It takes a great deal to stand out in today’s video game market, but Beyond Good and Evil from Ubisoft achieves this status through a combination of charming characters, strong storyline, and highly engaging environments which make it the best action-adventure since Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.
The protagonist for the story is Jade, a young aspiring photojournalist who along with her inventive man-pig uncle Pey’j live in an island lighthouse serving as caretaker for a group of orphans. From the beginning of the game we experience the attention to detail and story which forms BG&E’s charm. In a series of non-narrated scenes we experience Jade’s life in the lighthouse, the children she cares for, and episodes of her daily life. It is this immediate connection which the character which will motivate the player to act immediately when the imperialist alien Dom’z attack the lighthouse in an attempt to kidnap the children and cause their usual havoc upon the residents of Hylis, the planet where Jade resides.
Initially the story revolves around the threat of the Dom’z and their attempts to conquer the planet and enslave the population. The citizens of Hylis are protected by the Alpha Section, a Special Forces unit created to combat the Dom’z threat, but all is not what it seems. Jade is contacted by a mysterious stranger who recruits her for a reconnaissance mission for an underground movement, and from there the storyline takes off. Without giving too much away, it can be said that the storyline is full of revelations, twists, turns, and everything else that makes for Grade A storytelling and one of the most enjoyable and original storylines in years.
The core game play in BG&E is for the most part standard action-adventure fare, and overall the least appealing aspect of the game. Jade has a limited repertoire of moves at her disposal, and only two often-used weapons. The limited combat system is due mostly to the fact that in most instances Jade will be avoiding combat and it is here a large stealth aspect comes into play. Working for an underground movement, Jade’s primary goals are infiltration and reconnaissance, and as a result it is far better to not be seen by any nosy enemies in the locations she visits. While far from the depth of dedicated stealth games like Splinter Cell, the stealth aspect is a welcome change from most action-adventure titles and makes for some very enjoyable episodes as Jade often faces off against overwhelming odds to achieve her goals.
In addition to standard on-foot action, Jade also has a trusty hovercraft at her disposal for travel and exploration around Hylis, and also to use in a series of races to earn valuable items. The off-foot game play is a nice break from the other parts and does not present itself too often that it becomes annoying.
As a photojournalist, Jade always has a camera at her disposal, and it is the primary item in her inventory. Each mission usually requires Jade to take photos of certain objects a la the scanning system of Metroid Prime, and a game-spanning side quest involves taking pictures of every single organism in the game to receive valuable funds and items from a science facility. Taking snapshots is simple and can be saved to a memory card for future viewing and sharing if you wish.
A quick note on graphics: BG&E is simply gorgeous. The land of Hylis is vibrant and bright, with plenty of small details which give the land some personality. Characters all have a well-done cartoony feel to them, with well-done animations. Bland factory-style locations mar some of the “dungeons” in the game, but otherwise the atmosphere is excellent.
Sound is also excellent. Nearly every character is voice acted with a surprising level of quality, originality, and variation in the voices. There are plenty of jokes and moments of humor laced with the serious storyline which create an enjoyable mix. The game never takes itself too seriously except until the very end, and that is part of the charm.
If there is one glaring weakness in BG&E, it is the length. While comparable to most action-adventure titles, the game still feels too short when compared with the length which the developers went to in order to establish the world of Hylis and the characters which reside in it. Still, in the time it lasts BG&E is an amazing experience and is an incredible achievement which should not be missed by any gamer.