Friday, March 02, 2007

Review - Beyond Good and Evil (PS2)

It's always a shame to see a game deserving of such attention and love fall through the cracks of the market and slowly disappear into nothing more than half a blip on the radar. That blip is Beyond Good and Evil, and goshdarndammit it should have been a blasting kaboom for what it's worth.

I had purchased this game a year or so ago for no more than $20, played it like a rabbit in heat, and then...well, forgot about it for a bit after other things came along. Regardless, I've been working on trying to finish some old games before purchasing new ones (a sort of attempt at a resolution for 2007) and so I popped it in over the weekend, got myself readjusted to the controls, and quickly beat the game within a couple hours.

The Basics
The plot for Beyond Good and Evil goes as follows: The planet of Hillys is constantly attacked by members of the alien DomZ army. The citizens are protected by a military group called The Alpha Section, which put a stop to these attacks once they happen. I grow suspicious already. And for good reasoning: turns out that the Alpha Section are working with the DomZ to kidnap folks from Hillys to perform evil, scientificky (yes, it's not a word but it should be) science experiments on them. It then falls upon the many shoulders of the IRIS network, a hodgepodge of journalists bent on exposing the truth of things, to save Hillys from further attacks. How Jade becomes a member of the IRIS network is pivotal to the plot, and quite fun, so I will not spoil it here. But as she gets further and further into her investigations, even more horrible truths begin to flourish.

The Good
The single reason I bought Dark Cloud 2 was I'd read a lot about how much fun taking photos in-game was, and though you can't make cool armor from frying pans and barrels in Beyond Good and Evil, Jade's photojournalism skills do add a lot to the game. During your hop/skip/sneak around Hillys, Jade has the opportunity to photograph some of the natural wildlife. This isn't simply for some zoo yearbook though. Hillys is a world consisting of a wide variety of people, including pigs, birds, walruses, cows, and rhinos, among others. There's also a plethora of non-sentient animal life, such as reptiles, fish, and insects. So there's plenty of things to snapshot.

A large chunk of the game is spent in your boat/spaceship, which opens up exploration in otherwise inexcessible locations. It also allows you to enter races, which aren't actually all that exciting, but do give you something else to do if you're stuck on a certain part. The boat controls nicely, and from it you'll see some of the best visuals in the game: shimmering water with the sun setting in the distance, moonlight buildings at night, a purple sky twinkling away as you lift off and out of the planet...

The Bad
The fighting system is a bit bland. Jade's arsenal of attacks is very limited, and the autolocking system can be frustrating at times. I wished there'd been other moves she could learn for battle, or, even more so, that there'd been less fighting. The focus should have been on sneaking around and reporting. Also, it would have been nice if you could actually create a photobook with shots you'd acquired during the game. Instead they feel like one-time things. Take correct picture, get reward, forget about said picture, take next correct picture.
The game's ending leaves things open for a possible sequel. Why is this in The Bad? Because a sequel will never happen. Not now, not tomorrow, not ever. And that's just sad.

The Fugly
Towards the end of the game, something went wrong. The voice acting and subtitles did not match up to the cutscenes. Sometimes it looked as if another character was saying someone else's lines, which, when one character is a chick with green lips and the other, well, a pig, makes things seem a bit off. Even more so than it already is. Other than that, not much fugly.

The Overall Vibe
It's a great game that went severely unnoticed, but that shouldn't put you off if you're the least bit interested in it. It's got a lot to it. There's action, racing, stealth, mystery, name it. I wished the game had been longer, and I wished there was some sort of New Game+ system or whatever that allowed you to play in the game world after completing all the missions, but really, that's just small stuff. Get it. Surprisingly, I've seen it on shelves in a bunch of different stores. Well worth the twenty bucks (could be less by now!) and your time. This gets my official approval.

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