After creating Rayman 1 and 2, Michel Ancel took a detour to create something different. He had a goal to “pack a whole universe onto a single CD—mountains, planets, towns. To make the player feel like an explorer, with a sense of absolute freedom” and “to create a meaningful story amid player freedom”. The linear nature of the gameplay was necessary to convey the story; player freedom was an experience between parts of the plot according to Ancel. He also wished to create something that felt like a movie to engage and delight players. The game was inspired by plenty of elements, including the worlds of Miyazaki, European cultures, politics, media, and the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. The lead-character was inspired by Ancel’s wife, who wanted to portray a persona whom players could identify themselves with. After showing it on the 2002 Electronic Entertainment Expo, it received a lot of negative responses. Due to this, the team had to make a lot of changes in order to make it more commercially appealing. As we can see, this game went through some changes and had a lot of influences and goals. How far could they go with one single project?
Feels like a movie, plays like a game
A war between the Alpha-section and the DomZ has taken place and is affecting the world of Hillys. One of these places that has been harmed is an orphanage for children who lost their parents because of this war. You take control of the human Jade, who runs this place with her uncle Pey’j, a humanoid pig. After defending your home against creatures beyond your comprehension, you find yourself without much money. To pay for the electric bill so you can create a barrier to shield your home, you look for a job to take on and, luckily, one mysterious man needs your help.
The story is well told, with a lot of small noticeable parts that makes you ask questions and the game builds upon you asking them. There are small hints and huge plot twists that are just enough to not make it detour from letting the characters shine, but also to keep the plot engaging and entertaining at the same time. You even see how the characters and NPCs react to the bigger events that go on, and the stories that are told by everyone, even those that are not a part of the main plot, are a good read. The characters are lovely and have both the charm and silliness of a cartoon, but also the complexity of a realistic person. The interaction between the characters are believable and the relationships they build or have from before, are touching and well implemented. The story leaves on a cliff-hanger, but it still provides a satisfying conclusion to this part of the story, with a lot of events and small clues. Quite an impressive feat.
Story Score: 10/10
Quantity and Quality
The game is an action-adventure title, with puzzles and exploration being huge-focuses, not unlike a Zelda-game. You even have hearts that can be expanded by finding a PA-1 or buying them, as well as other items to support you. There are some light platforming segments, but they are only limited to auto-jump and context-sensitive climbs, so it is really there as a means to support our exploration and not much more.
The exploration is well done, with a lot of small areas to traverse to, sidequests to tackle, and hidden places and dungeons to discover. To highlight even more how much the exploration is focused on, you will also acquire a camera to take pictures of animals with in return for goodies. None of this feels tedious, since you are always on the move and always have something to do. The areas you will explore are also build to be believable constructions, such as town-areas and factories, so they never feel out of place. Besides the exploration, there are two other elements that are big parts to the game: stealth and puzzles.The puzzles are well done and never feel situational, due to you having to think outside of the box at times, as well as always being introduced to something new. They are often quick brain teasers that keep the game flowing and never feel obscure.
Stealth is also impressive, with one button used for stealth-mode, and enemies being a dangerous threat. You will also have the ability to take out enemies or confuse them, but you must plan every move and not be too greedy. The tension is great and never feels unfair or tedious. Should the need for upright confrontation come however, Jade is ready for the situation with her staff. When engaging enemies, Jade will automatically lock onto one of them, giving you the ability to strafe and do different combo-attacks. You only have one button for attacks, but pausing between button inputs or holding the button will give different forms of attacks. You can also attack enemies that approach you from other angles as well as change whom you lock onto and dodge, making our protagonist quite agile. The combat is simple, but a fun addition. The boss-fights themselves are also enjoyable and vary a lot from each other, making each fight a blast.
You are also at times joined by a companion which is a welcoming addition. Besides giving Jade someone to build connection to and talk about the situations they are in, they never feel like an annoyance, always happy to help out when puzzles call for them and they can even fight beside you without ever getting in your way. You can’t rely upon them to do all the jobs, so you will have to work together.
The world is pretty big with different areas to traverse to. It is fortunately never a tedious ride or too big, since there is always something to explore nearby and getting from one place to the other is done, at first, by your own, fast hovercraft. Your ride feels realistic and a bit floaty to control, but never to the point where you aren’t able to drive it. You will throughout the game, have to purchase upgrades for it such as guns or the ability to jump, by paying with collectible pearls that are hidden or won throughout the game. There will be times the hovercraft will be used for combat and hectic races, which are both great. There is even one dungeon where the hovercraft is used a lot and it’s done well with chase-sequences and even stealth-moments. Then there is the flying, which controls about as well as the hovercraft and is a joy to use. It won’t have as in depth use as the hovercraft since you get it late in the game, but is definitely a nice addition and a good help to find more hidden goodies throughout the world.
The only problem I had throughout the game, is that the camera felt misplaced twice in the game. It can be a bit too close to our heroine in small areas and a bit high-up or too low. This however doesn’t break any parts of the game, since it is usually either placed so you can see everything or be far away enough to make it easy to control, so this is really just a nitpick.
While Beyond Good and Evil doesn’t do anything revolutionary, it does everything so fantastically and perfect, without any filler throughout the 9-10 hour campaign. Even at the near-end where you will have to collect a lot of pearls, it makes it easier due to having more places to traverse to and finding them being always a joy, since the sidequests never deviating from the core mechanics. Beyond Good and Evil knows what it does well and goes with it, making it a joy from beginning to end
Gameplay Score: 10/10
Similar to Glade of Dreams
This is a beautiful game, with a diverse use of colors, creative locations, and it all looks so polished. Complimenting this even more is an impressive draw distance, and the small animals that pop up from time to time and having the town filled with people, makes it all feel alive. One of my favorite details are the drawings on the walls in Jade’s house, featuring small events and characters. This is how detailed the game can be. There were a few framerate drops, but there were only two times I noticed them and it barely lasted a couple of seconds. The world and characters are inspired by so many areas, from Greece and more mid-European locations, to even sci-fi and fantasy-realms. Due to giving them all a more modern take and a hint of a cartoonish style, it all fits together perfectly.
The soundtrack is impressive, with different styles complemented by different instruments. From the calm tunes of a pan-flute, to the more orchestral and intense segments, this makes for a beautiful and varied soundtrack. It is impressive how well all these different worlds and music can complement each other so well and still feel as a part of a cohesive world. They really found a way and I still wonder how.
Presentation Score: 10/10
I want more!
There are 88 pearls in total that need to be acquired to complete the game, but since you must have most of them to get to the end, completing the game won’t be too hard. Even with the hidden animals to take pictures of and the health-upgrades, there is an option to buy upgrades that will showcase where the last pearls, hidden animals and health-upgrades are on the overworld map, without telling you bluntly. The prizes you will get for completing the game aren’t much to really celebrate over, but the joy really lies in the journey rather than the end goal.
Extra Score: 8/10
Beyond Good and Evil gave me a weird feeling: I was satisfied with everything and felt I got just enough. But at the same time: I felt greedy. I want to see what more a sequel could do, what more could it tell and I want it all. I have never felt this way before, but Beyond Good and Evil gave me something unique. It comes highly recommended and is really one of the best games I have ever played. HD-remake or not.