Beyond Good & Evil Reader Review
Very few Western developers manage to follow successfully in Nintendo’s footsteps. We have seen generations of platformers fall short of the standards set by 2D and 3D Mario titles: even Rare, from their once privileged second party position failed to challenge Ocarina of Time’s majesty with the patchy Star Fox Adventures. But, Michel Ancel bucks this trend. Even with an occasionally stuttery framerate, and a clearly rushed final third BG&E shows that with enough care, the Nintendo magic can be replicated, even by Westerners.
The mechanics of the game follow the standards created by Zelda with context sensitive action buttons, automatic jumping, lock on combat and a forgiving policy towards failure. However, the clincher here – and what really lifts this out of the mundane – is that from this strong, proven basis everything else is new and fresh. Where Wind Waker failed to surprise us with its repackaging of previous adventures in Hyrule, BG&E takes us through a strange new world that really does feel deserving of the term: world. Hillys has its own constellations, has its own fauna, its own alien invasion fully underway and therein lies the plot. The DomZ are barraging Hillys from space leaving people to rely on the faceless military Alpha Sections for their defense.
We are thrust into this world as Jade – that rarest of things, a female avatar – during one of these DomZ attacks. Our first impressions are of a tried and true combat mechanism, the effort taken in the aesthetic design of everything and a lot of green. Then we are met with a chubby talking pig, a boss battle and more green. What unfurls over the next dozen or so hours of play places the quirky opening in context and gives everything a sense of meaning. Ancel has created a world where pigs talk, where hippopotami play warped versions of air hockey, where the common method of transport is by hovercroft and it all seems coherent and natural. What’s more, he has made this world fit comfortably with the standards dictated by the medium of the videogame. Health hearts, key cards, dungeon based gameplay, item based puzzles no longer seem like tired cliché but function as a comfortable grounding in this alien world.
The greatest triumph of BG&E is how the story is integrated into the gameplay itself. All too often, story sections in videogames act simply as an excuse for the action; in BG&E Jade is a journalist and objectives are based on her photography skills. Her photos reveal the elements that move the plot along, and even feed back into the gameworld by being included in newspapers. As Jade unravels the conspiracy behind the DomZ invasion we get a tangible feeling of hope flooding across Hillys as citizens line the streets in civil uprising. Even the heavy use of green by the art team has its explanation late on, but to reveal that would be to akin to telling you just who that Tetra woman really is.
9 / 10