This is a guest review by our platformer guru Moz.
Beyond Good & Evil is the new rather "quiky" Action/Adventure game from Michel Ancel the creator of the highly acclaimed and hugely popular Rayman and has been four years in the making. In this latest offering he has broken away from his usual platformer genre and created a game based more on puzzle solving and stealth than platform hopping (kind of Lara Croft meets Solid Snake meets Kodak).
Hillys is at war with the DomZ an alien force that regularly attacks and invades the planet leaving the inhabitants understandably panicked and scared. The failing task of protecting the population of Hillys has been given to the Alpha Section, an elite army of troops., However an underground rebel news network called IRIS has set up shop in the back room of a bar in the city. They believe that there is more to the Alpha Sections' inability to protect the population from the DomZ invasion than just ineptitude. Could it be that the Alpha Section are in fact in league with the DomZ? The IRIS network produce a newsletter that keeps the local population informed of their suspicions and hire a tough reporter named Double H to break into a heavily guarded factory run by the Alpha Section to find out what was really going on. But now Double H is missing in action and so IRIS goes about hiring anther reporter to go find the missing hack and keep them informed of any unsavoury goings on.
Beyong Good & Evil puts you in the role of Jade, the only other action /reporter on the planet Hillys She lives in a lighthouse with her inventor Uncle, Pey 'j and a few children left orphaned by the war with the DomZ. (Think Jonathon Creek meets The Sound of Music). Nothing particularly unusual about that until you discover that Jades' uncle is a talking pig and the invention he is most proud of is his pair of flatulence powered rocket boots (And I though my family were odd). Needless to say Jade with the help of Pey'j is soon hired by IRIS to be their roving reporter sent to find the captured Double H and to find out the truth about the suspected relationship between the Alpha Section and the DomZ.
Although there are times when Jade does goes it alone most of the game Jade will have either the help of uncle Pey'j or Double H. Solving many of the puzzles and opening doors will often require the two to work together. Although you never actually take total control of the secondary character, at certain points in the game you will be in need the assistance or special ability of your companion. When you require assistance the word "Action " will appear on screen at this point by simply pressing the "Action" button indicated at the right time your companion will automatically do whatever task is required at the time. For example on when being attacked by what looks like a form of jellyfish on Black Isle, Uncle Pey'j can be instructed to use his rather smelly rocket boots to jump in the air and land with a splat which will have the reaction of throwing any nearby jellyfish into the air rendering them harmless for a few seconds and giving Jade the chance to attack with her Dai-Jo (Or "stick" to you and me).When Jade attacks in this way it is generally shown in slow motion (kind of Six Million Dollar Man plays rounders) Although the game does have combat it is a very straightforward system and doesn't require any fancy finger work on the control pad. And combat isn't really the main aim of the game anyway. For most of the game you are on foot in search of photographic evidence of the suspicious goings on of the Alpha Section. IRIS will give you specific pictures that they want you to take. The location of these pictures will be shown on your map. You have to get to these specific locations avoiding the Alpha Section guards and by battling the odd beastie here and there as you make your way. This is where the puzzle solving and stealth really come into its own. You will find that each room that you have to cross is guarded by at least one or more Alpha section guards. It is virtually impossible to attack these guards because as soon as they see you they set off alarms which mean that you are immediately killed by laser cannon that are patrolling around the ceilings and walls. So how do you get past the guards? Well, generally the guards are either completely stationary or move around the room in a regular pattern, so Jade can crouch down and crawl around the room using shadows or other objects to hide her from view. As long as the guards are not looking in her direction Jade will not be spotted. Alternatively if there are only one or two guards in a room Jade can crawl up behind a guard and kick him, this will dislodge his air tanks and he will run around in a panic, by giving a second kick or a bash with your "stick" this will send the poor guard into orbit and oblivion. Although as the game progresses the rooms do get gradually more difficult to traverse and do require a little thought and plotting of routes, there is not really much variation in action and some sections of the game can be repetitive and sometimes a little tedious.
Although Jade doesn't have much in the way of weaponry in addition to her Dai-Jo, part way through the game she also obtains a Gyrodisk glove. By firing disks Jade can activate distant switches or it can be used as quite an effective weapon.
At the beginning of the game not all areas are accessible. In order to progress into these areas you will need to get hold of the "keys", which take the form of magnetic passes generally in the possession of the Hillyan army. There are various types of pass which when used will allow you unlock to previously inaccessible areas. Sometimes not even a pass can get you into some areas and Jade may need to find fuses to power up elevators or other equipment. In some areas Jade will need to input a code into a computer to gain access. To obtain the correct code Jade will need to take a photograph of the barcode that forms the lock on the door. Jade then downloads this photograph to IRIS who will work out the correct combination of letters and numbers and e-mail this information to Jade.
When not on foot, Jade's main form of transport from location to location is a hovercraft that has been overhauled by uncle Pey'j. During the game upgrades will need to be purchased for the craft from the Hillys Garage, these upgrades allow the hovercraft to fire weapons, jump and increase speed where necessary. Obviously these upgrades need to be paid for and currency on the planet comes in two forms Materia units and Pearls. Materia is obtained by smashing objects or defeating opponents and comes in the form of a kind of purple crystal. Jade can earn extra Materia by taking photographs of the different life forms that you encounter and sending these photographs to a scientist who is trying to catalogue all life forms on Hillys. You will be paid in Materia for each new species you photograph and a Pearl will be awarded when you complete a roll of film. Information of the amount of material you have is stored on a credit card. You can use this card to buy all sorts of accessories from vending machines located throughout Hillys. The kind of items on offer are energy giving Starkos and K-bups which will replace any energy Jade has lost or Pods and Meca Impulsers that repair and maintain the hovercraft.
Pearls however are the valuable but rare source of currency. These are needed for the big upgrades to the hovercraft. These Pearls are obtained in various ways, some may be simply bought with Materia from vendors, some by completing rolls of film for the scientist but most are obtained by beating bosses or completing missions.
The world of Hillys is graphically impressive and beautifully rendered. The outdoor areas are breathtakingly scenic and show off some nice looking water effects especially in the Xbox version of the game. By contrast the interior of the caverns and buildings being infiltrated are dark, gloomy and foreboding.
The characters themselves have been thoughtfully produced. Jade as the main character is serious, focused and has more substance and emotion than those of her supporting cast. However what these other characters do bring to the game, with the help of some excellent voice acting from its creators, is the essential mix of humour, wit and banter that brings Beyond Good & Evil to life and endears it to the player.
If Beyond God & Evil has a fault it's the fact that it is actually quite a short game taking approximately eighteen hours to complete. And although my initial impression of the game was that Hillys was a massive and sprawling planet which would give the player the opportunity of exploring many varied and differing locations, this isn't actually the case. For example when travelling through the city along the main canal in your hovercraft you can see buildings and activities going on all around you, however the payer never gets to explore these areas, only being allowed to visit the pedestrian district of the city which is actually quite limited. It would be quite nice to be able to explore these areas and see the chaos and destruction that is being caused by the attacking DomZ at close quarters.
Beyond Good & Evil is however, still an innovative and great looking game. The various sub games, such as the hovercraft races and looter challenges keep the player interested and more than make up for the some of the more repetitive areas of the game. If you are a fan of action adventure games or in the market for something that's a little different Beyond Good & Evil is worth investing a few pounds in.