Beyond Good and Evil

January 29, 2006


When the only problem with a game is the fact that it isn’t long enough, you know you’ve got a great game on your hands. This isn’t quite the case with UbiSoft’s stealthy adventure Beyond Good and Evil, but it comes incredibly close.

Jade, a young woman on the planet Hillys (rhymes with “Phyllis”) who earns some spare credits as a freelance photographer and runs a local orphanage with her adoptive uncle pig-man, Pey’j (pronounced “page”). The orphans in question are the result of Hillys’s constant problems with the DomZ (not “domes”), an unpleasant alien race that wreaks havoc at seemingly regular intervals. Many Hillians end up kidnapped after these attacks, and thus orphans left behind. Luckily, the Hillian army has a special unit, the Alpha Sections, who do their best to fend off the DomZ and keep the people of Hillys safe.

This sounds fine, except that it makes for a lousy story to base a game around.

The truth of the matter is that the Alpha Sections aren’t quite what they seem to be, and before long Jade finds herself working with the underground rebellion group Iris to uncover the real story, armed with little more than her wits, her camera, and her dai-jo beatstick (plus a cool little laser disc shooter she picks up along the way). When not on foot, Jade and Pey’j cruise around in an old hovercraft that gets the job done on the mostly aqueous Hillys and comes equipped with boost jets and a laser cannon for emergencies. The Rastafarian rhino family at Mammago Garage can help you further outfit your vehicle if you bring them rare pearls.

The story itself isn’t anything groundbreaking or even that captivating as there aren’t a lot of unexpected twists and the conspiracy isn’t all that deep, but the characters, and especially the top-notch voice acting, make it seem important. There’s some genuine emotion in [i]BG&E[/i], both spoken and observed (witness the exuberant hug after Jade and Pey’j fend off some DomZ early on), and that’s what makes the admittedly trite story work.

It also doesn’t hurt that the game is, to put it simply, gorgeous. Jade, Pey’j, and all of the other inhabitants of Hillys (both friend and foe) are solid, believable characters, even though most of them are human-animal hybrids or outright alien. The environments that you explore, which range from an abandoned mine to the alien base on the moon, are detailed and diverse. Little details, like children’s crayon scribblings on the walls of the orphanage/lighthouse, also help to flesh out the reality a bit. The water looks great (and as I mentioned, there is a lot of water on Hillys), and real-time lighting moves shadows when necessary (like the “heavily-guarded elevator” stealth segment). Some of the smaller animals and non-essential hybrids that you have to photograph for the local science center are a bit uninspired and/or undetailed, but that and some strange shadows are the only graphical problems I experienced.

Sound and voice plays a big part in this game as well, from the voice acting to a wide variety of appropriate background music. Whether it be the up tempo beats in the Akuda Bar, the high-tension rhythm during combat, or melancholic melodies at one of the games many emotional downswings, the BGM always meshes with the gameplay ideally. You might learn to hate the creepy music that always seems to accompany a stealth segment, but it won’t be because it’s bad. Effects in the game are also precise, from the Darth Vader-like respiration of the Alphas to the irritating squeaking of rattus gigantus. And finally, enough good things can’t be said about the voice acting in this game, or at least the English versions (I didn’t try to play the game en espaA

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.