Beyond Good and Evil HD • Page 2

The Hillys are alive.

And that appeal resides primarily within the way the game tells its story, more than the story itself or the game mechanics fleshing it out. With Beyond Good and Evil, Ancel - currently hard at work on the true sequel at Ubisoft Montpellier - first displayed his keen ability to tell stories through videogames. This attracted the attention of Peter Jackson who, as a direct result of this title, hired him to create the game adaptation of King Kong.

At the start of the game you are dropped into a world caught between two evils: the invading aliens and the totalitarian army. The army's role is ostensibly to serve and protect, but its troops mainly end up adding to people's woes.

Initially, your job is to raise funds for the orphanage by photographing the wildlife found on Hillys. Via a glorified yet satisfying mini-game, the snaps you take of Hillys' fauna are uploaded to scientists seeking to catalogue all remaining life on the planet in exchange for credits.

But soon enough your photographic remit expands to take in the brutalities you encounter as you explore. These images are printed in the resistance's underground newspaper and begin to have a social impact.

There's a nippy pace to the game, more filmic than ludic. Delight comes more from the moment-by-moment twists and turns than the overarching storyline. Peter Jackson once said that he didn't choose Ancel to turn King Kong into a game because of his plot-writing abilities; he chose him because of what a good storyteller he was. Right from the get go, it's clear this is where the game's enduring appeal is to be found.

Despite the commercial failure of the original BGE, Ubisoft announced a bona fide sequel in 2008 - also being developed by Ancel.

In mechanical terms, Beyond Good and Evil is showing its age a little. The stock components of contemporary action adventure games are all present and correct: hand-to-hand combat, stealth, mini-games and collectibles.

But even at the time of the original's release, those less enamoured by the story and setting declared these elements were rendered too simply. Taking each one in isolation when playing the game today, they each appear unsophisticated to a contemporary audience.

In 2003, the game's various elements pulled together to deliver an experience that's more than the sum of its parts. Returning to the first couple of hours of the game now, eight years on, the experience is surprisingly fresh. The game has a tight, slimline feel which shows up many contemporary releases for being bloated and unwieldy.

All of which makes the prospect of this digital release enticing. At 800 Microsoft Points (£6.80), the chance to revisit Hillys in HD is irresistible. The game is being re-released on the right platforms at the right price. But more than that, it's the right time to reunite with Jade, the elfin lighthouse-keeper, who still has so much to teach us.

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About the author

Simon Parkin

Simon Parkin


Simon Parkin is an award-winning writer and journalist from England, a regular contributor to The New Yorker, The Guardian and a variety of other publications.


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