Beyond Good and Evil is one of those games where you’re not quite sure what to expect as you pop the disc in, but find yourself pleasantly surprised by what you discover. It’s not a God tier title, but at least above average in nearly every way.
BGE hits the ground running, with the opening cutscene introducing you main character Jade, who is sitting outside meditating when the area is invaded by the mysterious DomZ. Little is known about these aliens, but the Alpha Sections (the planet’s paramilitary army) have been at war with them for quite some time in an attempt to protect Hillys (the name of the planet the game takes place on).
The DomZ attack Jade’s lighthouse home, kidnapping several children. The first gameplay segment has you taking up a nearby stick to fend off as many DomZ as you can in an attempt to get the children back. Jade herself temporarily falls prey to the DomZ until her adoptive uncle Pey’J comes to the rescue with her Bo Staff.
Conveniently, it isn’t until immediately after the DomZ have left that the Alpha Section troops arrive to take all the credit and press. It’s Jade and Pey’J’s intense suspicion of them (moreso Pey’J’s) that leads them to be scouted by IRIS, a rebel organization that has been investigating the Alpha Sections, attempting to reveal them to be the swindlers they think they are.
Really, the world of BGE is a somewhat bleak one, as the cover art might imply. Despite the constant Alpha Section propaganda stating that they’re trying their hardest to beat back the invasion, everytime the DomZ attack, more people die. People seem to also be disappearing on a regular basis. It’s obvious that the Alpha Section has some secrets, and the game goes out of its way to hint at an overarching conspiracy.
Even under such circumstances, BGE manages to be surprisingly humorous, especially in the first half of the game. Like in the very beginning of the game, Jade attempts to turn on the lighthouse’s shield to stop the attack, but the electric company has cut their power, even under the given extenuating circumstances. And of course there’s Pey’J’s jet boots, powered by a highly compressed pack of methane. In other words, fart-powered boots.
Though the game’s main plot hook/twist (the conspiracy theory) was guessable from a mile away, BGE still keeps a few aces under it’s sleeve (like who the leader of IRIS is).
Though Beyond Good and Evil isn’t a very long game, it packs in a satisfying amount of really fun and challenging gameplay. As Jade, you’ll use your camera, natural agility, and bo staff (among other gadgets and abilities) to fight and sneak your way through various Alpha Section facilities in an attempt to expose the truth. When you’re not snooping in the Alpha Sections’ business, you can engage in a couple minigames in the Downtown district. There’s even a small kart racing segment that actually ties into the infiltration of one of the Alpha Section facilities.
The fighting is fairly simplistic, with Jade being able to execute a variety of moves depending on how time each button input. As simplistic as this is, it’s interesting because it challenges you stay calm even when enemies are swarming you (and they will, multiple times), and remember to continue timing each attack (button mashing will only dish out 3 hit combos, which feels like a way of punishing those who panic easily). It reminded me of the very first scene in the game where Jade was meditating.
Sneaking is a bit more challenging, but it’s entirely about evading enemies. Though you can take them with some careful planning and execution (depending on the area), Jade doesn’t have any special grabs or choke holds to put enemies to sleep and such. Don’t expect Metal Gear or Splinter Cell-like stealth here. It’s more in the vein of Sly Cooper. It does get progressively more difficult though, with missteps becoming more and more of a punishable offense as you proceed through the game.
Call me arrogant, but at this point I sometimes have trouble returning to last generation games, because of how incredibly bland their visuals are in comparison. Beyond Good and Evil, however, looks great. Its graphics are colorful and easy on the eyes, and aside from some impossibly violent waters in some docking areas (maybe it has to do with the fact I played it on PS3), runs very smoothly. The music is a mix of catchy beats with nonsensical lyrics and very emotional themes that make your spine tingle.
Overall, this is a great game that apparently didn’t get the attention it deserved. Admittedly, the story is a tad on the shorter side of the scale in length, and besides collecting all the pearls (currency for upgrading your vehicles), there doesn’t seem to be much incentive to come back. But this is definitely a game worth your time. 8/10