"Jade could be the next Lara Croft"
Michel Ancel, a name you may or may not know but chances are if you've been a console gamer for a while you've tried at least one of his games. He is the creator of Rayman and instead of pumping out a new update of that established franchise, he took a risk and created a new character Jade. And from what I have played of Beyond Good and Evil, it paid off.
In Beyond Good and Evil you play as a young female named Jade. Jade lives in Hillys with her uncle Pey'j (who also happens to be a pig) caring for children orphaned by their parents after being kidnapped by the Domz, the enemy of the game. Through a series of events Jade comes into contact with an underground movement known as IRIS, from there the adventure truly begins.
Beyond Good and Evil is hard to slot into one single genre. It contains elements of adventure, action and platforming all in the same package. If you have any liking to the aforementioned genres then the chances are you are going to love Beyond Good and Evil. Most of the game is spent traveling the lands looking for clues but it's not as monotonous and boring as it may seem at first.
Jades primary weapon, surprisingly is a camera. As Hillys is under constant attack by the Domz, the science centre wants pictures of every animal around to keep in a database. This is where your cash comes in, and money plays a large part in Beyond Good and Evil. You really have to train yourself to play Beyond Good and Evil because any creature you see should be photographed for money. Adjusting to that style of gameplay can take time. However fear not because there is more to this game then taking pictures.
Whilst Ancel has left Rayman behind for the moment, Beyond Good and Evil does return back to his platforming roots in some stages of the game. In one of the earlier missions you have to move through the shafts of a mine and platforming comes to the fore in this section. Other sections such as the factory offer more strategic gaming then just belting enemies to death. Using Sam Fisher like skills, Jade can swiftly and slowly move past enemy soldiers without being noticed. This is key to success in BG&E because the soldiers happen to be quite tough, and Jade usually can't compete.
Beyond Good and Evil also focuses quite significantly on co-operative play. At first you will be partnered by Jade's uncle Pey'j however halfway through the game you will rescue Double H, another IRIS member. Co-operative partners will help Jade but vice versa, Jade can help them at times. Some of the boss characters require a hit from the NPC (non-player character) before Jade can damage them. This level of co-operation really adds to the game, and was definitely one of the surprising aspects I came across when playing Beyond Good and Evil.
One problem with Beyond Good and Evil is the storyline progression is given away quite early in the story. You won't know entirely what is going to happen, but the locations of future missions will be given. This does make it easier to know where to go further on into the story however. Between areas it is likely you won't be able to just continue to the next one. Jade uses a hovercraft as a primary mode of transport, and it usually needs upgrading. These upgrades are bought on the black market and they only accept pearls as money and finding pearls is harder then finding money. Pearls are located in enemy boss characters most of the time but you can acquire them other ways.
Beyond Good and Evil features a few mini games to play such as hovercraft racing and a derivative of air hockey. These can be fun to play when you're either stuck or thinking of ways to find more pearls. The hovercraft racing can give Mario Kart a run for its money any day. Also for most of the game rather then finding health pickups etc Jade must buy them at kiosks which can instill doubt in the player, do they need the health now or will the cash be better used later.
The great thing about Beyond Good and Evil is that it never becomes overly frustrating to play. You will run into situations that seem impossible but rather then putting the controller down, giving up and saying that's impossible you will keep plugging away at it until you get past. It is this addiction and non-frustrating gameplay which will have players coming back for more and more with Beyond Good and Evil. There is so many ingenious design decisions with BG&E, such as when you take a photo of a map on the wall the in-game map then becomes available, or taking a photo of a security door to give to the outside world so they can crack the key.
Even though it is only a single player game (they could have and perhaps should have made the mini games multiplayer) the storyline and game play is so enthralling and original that it is likely you will want to play it again, a definite nod to the adventure genre.
The world in which Beyond Good and Evil is set is quite expansive and between missions Jade can go anywhere, to find pearls or to just check out the sites. Some areas are obviously inhabited by nasties such as jellys or enemy soldiers. As you progress through you will find out that not is all quite right with the Alpha Sections, the soldiers meant to be protecting the people. The draw distance is adequate and the world is quite detailed. Sometimes the frame rate does drop and is noticeable, but this is a minor flaw for a game which is so polished, so interesting and so fun to play.
Beyond Good and Evil is one of the freshest, most innovative and best games to be released across any platform in 2003. You simply must at least rent this game and be mesmerised by the high design values and superb gameplay present throughout. We can only hope that this becomes a new ongoing franchise for Ancel and Ubisoft. Jade, the next Lara Croft? Time will tell.
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