There are many great things about the internet. Some are already well documented, some will in time no doubt be discussed elsewhere on this fine website, and some should frankly be kept to yourself you filthy people. The thing that I enjoy more than most is the ability of mass awareness. In the past you found out that something was good because the advertising told you it was good or perhaps someone within your circle of friends had played it. Now, thanks to the interwebs, our circle of friends is exponentially bigger and experiences that would previously have past us by are ours to savour. The songs that you would never hear on radio, the straight to DVD movies, that are so bad they’re awesome, and the strange video game at the back of the discount racks staring a photo-journalist and a pig.
Now I don’t like to use superlatives and hyperbole but Beyond Good and Evil is probably the greatest thing ever, in the history of everything. Ok, maybe not, but I can say that it is a fantastic game. For those of you who are wondering what the hell I’m taking about Beyond Good and Evil is a game produced by a small team of crazy Frenchmen (headed by Michel Ancel) for Ubisoft back in y’olde last gen time, released on p2, xbox, gamecube and pc. (now HD-afied on Xbox Live and PSN) The game has you playing as Jade, equal parts photographer, martial artist and den mother to lighthouse full of orphaned children. The story is quick to pelt you with action as your planet, Hillys, is attacked, your light house destroyed and your young wards kidnapped by the evil alien race the Domz.
And so, with the help of your man/pig uncle Pey’j and your holographic butler/handbag Secundo, you dive head first into the battle to save the planet. Along the way you will fight monsters, uncover conspiracies, join a revolution, fly to the moon and play find the lady with a blind man called Peepers. The game play throughout can best be described as ‘eclectic’, though this should certainly not be read in a negative light. This is a game that has you doing everything you could want to do and doing none of it for long enough to get boring. There’s action platforming, stealth sections, puzzle elements, races, exploration and even a mini game that as you playing air hockey against a walrus, and best of all, not once does it feel over whelming or like any of it was just thrown in to fill space. Everything has its place and everything works in the world.
By way of example, many games from that era, and to this day, have us searching for 100 of this icon or 50 of that package so that we the player will spend more time exploring the game. Fine in theory but these almost always feel forced and out of place. BG&E’s answer? Jade is a photographer, and obviously needs money while she’s gallivanting about saving the world so she gets a job taking photo’s of local wildlife to help scientists catalogue the various species on the planet. It serves the exact same purpose but it feels right, like part of the world and you as the player have no problem with sailing to the edge of the sea to catch a glimpse of the great whale in the distance or creeping through pipes to sneak upon a mouse. In fact with the possible exception of the race’s (which kind of stick out as an odd but fun inclusion) everything the game has you doing feels like part of the world. It feels natural and draws you closer to the characters and their lives, which is good because BG&E is more emotional than a game featuring Rastafarian rhinos has any right to be. You care about the children and Pey’j, and when they’re in trouble you want to be there to help them. Infact I’m not ashamed to say that one point of the story in particular had me close to tears (which puts it right up along with The Land Before Time in terms of heart in art) which just makes you want to keep playing all the more.
Together it all works as, in my mind, one of the best games that nearly nobody played. Which sucks because the relatively low sales figures of the HD re-release is rumoured as one of the main reasons we are still waiting on the long ago teased sequel, so if only for this reason I would (and regularly do) recommend it to all, while we patiently wait on Monsieur Ancel and his small team to hopefully work their magic again. Many commentators are suggesting that it will now never see the light of day but I choose not to give upon it yet.