Generally, there are two types of people when it comes to Beyond Good and Evil; those who adored it upon its 2003 release, and those who shrugged their shoulders whilst wondering what all the fuss was about. Now Ubisoft presents those players who sat on the fence another chance to jump into the world of Hillys with their resurrection of the game for Xbox Live Arcade and PSN.
Part adventure, part photo journal, with a generous helping of combat interspersed with a smattering of stealth action, Beyond Good & Evil (BG&E) might sound like a hotchpotch of styles simply thrown together, but the apparent shambles has a certain elegance in how it executes itself.
The player controls Jade, a photo journalist who finds herself in the midst of a planet-wide conspiracy. Accompanying her on this journey is Pey’j, a pig-like creature who has a fine line in witty quips and seems doomed to gadgetry failure. Rounding off the list of companions is Secundo, an Artificial Intelligence with such an over the top French accent that would make Antoine de Caune choke on his morning croissant.
Paying homage to the format that the Zelda series of games laid out all those years ago is no bad thing, with BG&E doing what all the finest cover versions do; they take the essence and add their own unique spin to proceedings. The basic elements of BG&E involve a lot of dungeon crawling with Pey’j in tow, solving puzzles and combating enemies, with a serious helping of adventuring on the side. There is none of the more modern day concessions on show here, with a noticeable lack of hand holding or regenerating health. You will need to eat snacks to replenish energy, and a certain amount of babysitting of Pey’j is required, but never so much that the player will get frustrated.
In order to traverse the more distant areas, there is a hovercraft which can be upgraded over time to a level of pimpdom that would have R&B botherer Tim Westwood blaring airhorns and shouting incomprehensible buzz words in abject approval.
Combat feels solid, whether on the hovercraft or amongst the various surroundings used to move the story arc along. There’s a bustle and flow everywhere, as humanoid creatures intermingle with the more wild and elaborate inhabitants of Hillys, meaning the player will find themselves reaching for their camera as often as their staff.
It becomes incredibly addictive attempting to capture a shot of each new creature to send to the science centre, looking to earn extra credits for rare or unusual ones. It helps that this camera mechanic is expertly executed – over time zoom lenses are added and after each group of shots is exposed they are automatically replenished, doing away with any unnecessary fiddling.
There’s a bright and breezy feel to BG&E, maybe something that wasn’t really picked up on before during its original release by those who gave it a passing glance. It feels like something of a shock now, since we’ve all become too used to a grittier feel to games of late and such picturesque delights have become the exception rather than the rule. To round off all this joy is a delightful soundtrack that is both playful and thought provoking in equal measure. Doubtless many people will be changing the incoming message tone of their mobile device to the sound that accompanies the acquisition of a pearl – it’s enough to bring a smile to even the most glacial of hearts.
There is literally hours of fun to be had in BG&E as side missions become available, and to attempt it all will see the player sink a good 10-12 hours before the ending rolls, which is not inconsiderable.
Before all this sounds like a complete love-in, it’s worth noting that not everything is rosy in this particular garden. Sometimes finding the trigger to set in motion the next series of events can be a muddled affair and, when they occur, the stealth sections leave a lot to be desired, ending up feeling like they’ve been crowbarred into the game to tick all the boxes. Finally, the camera can be a tad wonky at times, taking on a life of its own as it does a fair representation of a digital spasmodic fit.
So, while not perfect, this HD update is a fitting reminder that perfection isn’t all glossy surfaces and pristine corners, and that both character and joy are just as important in how people garner fond memories. Beyond Good and Evil HD is a joyous experience – just leave your baggage at the door, forgive the more esoteric instances, and enjoy the ride.