1/28/2004 1:06:32 AM
Beyond Good & Evil Playstation 2 Review
By Zach Rosenberg
Ubisoft's latest, "Beyond Good & Evil" is another one of those games that feels reminiscent of many other games. When you first pick it up, the sentiment feels like "Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker," the story feels like "Metal Gear Solid," and the gameplay feels like an odd mixture of "Ratchet & Clank," "Jak 2," "Metroid Prime," and (strangely enough) "Pokemon Snap." But what's impressive about "Beyond Good & Evil" is that it stands on its own two feet, and though it has elements similar to other contemporary games, it does a good job of creating its own unique and complicated taste. It's sort of like a digital lasagna. And believe me, this digital lasagna is beyond good. It's great.
The story is you're Jade, a freelance photographer living on Hillys, which is a cartoony island "nation." For whatever reason, Hillys is under attack by the DomZ. Jade's an orphan and is the oldest of a group of orphaned kids living at the lighthouse, raised by Jade's "sidekick," Pey'j (pronounced "Pee-Jay"). But here's where things go all "Metal Gear" on you. There's a group called the Alpha Section that seems to be Hillys' protectors, but underground transmissions from a group called IRIS state otherwise. How deep does the possible conspiracy go? Oooooh...pick up a controller and find out, young photographer.
Here's where the action comes in--as Jade (plus sidekick, controlled only with one context button), you follow clues that bring you on a fantastic voyage. You'll be thrown into a multitude of situations, forcing you to quickly convert from, for example, stealth to photo-taking to action to puzzle back to action. You'll be in a few modes as well, namely on foot and in your upgradeable hovercraft. And remember to take pictures as you go! You'll get assignments, one of them being to take pictures of the different animal life on Hillys and send them to some interstellar science center. They'll pay you for your finds, and you won't waste film--your digital scanning camera will make note of animals you've already shutterbugged. The action is pretty straight-forward. You've got two weapons: your dai-jo stick, and light discs. Though you're limited in THAT way, you've also got Pey'J (or your other sidekick Double-H) to help you combo on some attacks. He'll also run into battle alone while you snap pictures or power up. At times you'll also need Pey'J (or Double-H) to solve puzzles. The puzzles themselves are a nice range of simple to slightly frustrating, but at times the more simple ones will get repetitive. Thankfully, nothing is done to death, and being that this game seems to be aimed at early teens, they'll deal with repetition nicely. They should be used to it from school.
The only iffy mechanic in the game is the stealth. It seems you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a stealth-based game these days, and "Beyond Good & Evil" is guilty as charged. You've got a little more choice in this game, however--your ammo isn't limited, so sometimes you can say, "Screw stealth--crash and smash!" But other times, you'll need to get by a slew of Alpha Section guards without being seen, and sometimes the stealth gets difficult--especially for those who aren't fond of it. But the stealth mode isn't overbearing, and you do it with the knowledge that you'll soon be back to busting skulls.
And here's the one factor you'll all appreciate--for a relatively open space, there's no random treasure chase. No treasure maps, no weirdo coin collecting or orb-finding. You are sometimes awarded "pearls," but those are treated as currency in different spots in the game, and you won't hunt for them, they'll be dropped by enemies or awarded for good photos.
The only killer in the game is the length. Though I'm getting used to terribly short games these days, I still feel the need to complain about it. If you're a good player, you can nail this game down in a day (two if you get up late like I do). The story isn't rushed--but you're still left with the feeling that for such an epic problem, it wouldn't have hurt to have it solved in just a little more time! I mean, when it comes to interstellar wars and government conspiracies, it just doesn't blow over in a few short hours. But evidently, that's the way this game is--many months to make, a few hours to consume. Again, kind of like that digital lasagna. But all things being said, the game is so well-done that you might be inclined to take your time.
As far as the graphics go, the game is nearly as good as it gets. Everything seems in-place, and the environments aren't overdone. The water looks excellent and acts like water should, and the land is lush and nicely stylized to work with its theme. Underground mines look like mines--the overworld creates and sticks to its charm. The characters themselves look varied and detailed, and for goat-kids, some of those other kids at the lighthouse orphanage sure look sweet. Jade even changes facial expressions based on your situation, giving you another hint of detail. The other characters get a smaller amount of attention, but still hold up their assigned characteristics well. Like I said, nothing's out of place. The enemies are plentiful, and it's not just two or three palette-swapped baddies--there's a nice assortment of enemies you'll face. But the all-around design is what's most impressive here. The interiors of buildings look as good as the exteriors, and long gone are the days of knowing which cupboard to open because it's lighter than the others. Things are seamless in this world--and it's beautiful. Oh, and the camera rarely gets in the way or obscures important stuff. I love it.
The sound is even simpler to describe, as it's just like the graphics--and more! All the audio excellently fits its place in the game. There's a range of music--you're not bottle-necked into the same orchestral stuff the whole game through. When the tones change, the music changes, and you can take cues from the things you hear around you to inform you as to what's going on. The voice-acting is incredible, as even with these odd human-animal hybrids, nothing's too over-the-top. It's not something you'd hate hearing multiple times. The sound effects are all fairly standard issue, but that's not to say that they're substandard. Like I said, you play this game and everything fits. The game just sounds "right."
Despite its length (which you may or may not even notice, depending on what kind of player you are and if you're into a few games at once), "Beyond Good & Evil" is a deep game that is simple fun. It looks good, it sounds good, and the controls are great. If this game had been released earlier last year, it probably would have made a lot of people's "Best of 2003" lists. Because it was released in December, after most publications have already committed their "best of" lists, the game will probably be overlooked. But "Beyond Good & Evil" shouldn't be easily forgotten--it's an excellently crafted game, and one of the few where you get to play as a good-hearted hero. Forget thIf you've got an early-teen brother or sister (or you're one yourself), he or she will like this game. Hell, I'm in my twenties and enjoyed the game. e evil, this game's simply "Beyond Good."
Graphics: 8. Excellently create a consistent world.
Sound: 8. Again, excellently executed with multiple great elements.
Gameplay: 7. Solid controls, but pops you into an unwanted stealth mode at times.
Story: 8. As far as storytelling goes, this game does it simply and specifically. Good job.
Replayability: 6. Once it's done (and how quickly so), you might or might not want to play it again. Who knows?
Overall: 8 (not an average). A fine game that stands on its own two feet, despite gameplay elements similar to other games.
Beyond Good & Evil Playstation 2 Review