Game Rant's Andrew Dyce reviews Beyond Good &Evil HD
When Microsoft revealed that they would be bringing Beyond Good & Evil HD to Xbox Live as part of their House Party promotion, the cult following of Ubisoft's action/puzzler was filled with renewed hope that the series may not have seen its last days. Although Ubisoft remains proud of the critical praise that BG&E earned when it was first released in 2003, the game never received the financial support that creator Michel Ancel had hoped.
A sequel to the game has been rumored to be in the works for some time now, with a concept video of possible gameplay showing the realistic direction the developers were taking. But a sequel will only be possible if support for the title continues to grow, and BG&E's producer even went so far as to suggest that if players want to see more games in the series, then purchasing a copy of the newly remastered game would go a long way. But are HD graphics all it takes for an 8 year-old game to remain relevant?
Right off the bat, Beyond Good & Evil HD will immediately look and feel familiar to anyone who spent some time with other third-person-action games of the era. Banjo-Kazooie, Ratchet & Clank, or even Jak & Daxter all share the same cartoonish take on animal/humanoid characters, but the juxtaposition of animals with humans in BG&E is one that many will fall in love with in seconds.
The game is unapologetically fueled by its story, which follows an investigative photo-journalist named Jade and her circle of friends and family as they try to survive on the alien-besieged planet of Hillys. The inhabitants of the planet live in constant fear of attacks and abductions at the hands of the alien DomZ, with Jade acting as guardian to more than a few orphaned children.
After her uncle Pey'J is taken prisoner by the DomZ along with the rest of her adopted family, Jade sets off to expose a global conspiracy, reaching from the Alpha Sections tasked with defending the residents to the very top of the DomZ leadership. While equipped with an assortment of combat skills, Jade's camera will prove the most useful tool in acquiring evidence of the wrongdoing.
It's important to understand that combat is not the heart of Beyond Good & Evil, since the idea of a staff, throwing disc, and camera being the only instruments at the player's disposal sounds like anything but a full experience. Make no mistake, in the case of Beyond Good & Evil HD, less really is more.
For the most part, Beyond Good & Evil is built around third-person exploration of various dungeons and a hub city, and interacting with different NPC's to gather information and objectives. Surprisingly, vehicle combat and flying stages are introduced seamlessly, and it's that intuitiveness that becomes one of the best testaments to the game's overall design.
The game immediately thrusts the player into a combat situation with only a single prompt, and the same sink-or-swim mentality is used throughout the main campaign. The fact that very few directions are ever given can be frustrating at times, but new game mechanics are never difficult to master in short order.
It doesn't take more than an hour to discover that while the game's artwork may imply an intense action experience, Beyond Good & Evil HD is a puzzler at heart. Don't interpret that as a lack of stealth or action; think of Legend of Zelda's traditional key-hunting and switch-flipping and you're on the right track. Luckily, BG&E's riddles rely heavily on trial and error and simply pushing forward to a solution, rather than obscure and mysterious dead ends that will have you banging your head against the wall for hours.
The games takes the initial mechanics of sneaking through guards' patrol patterns, crouching under or diving over barricades and creating diversions and slowly expands upon them in unexpected ways. Before too long, players will be manipulating guards into vulnerable positions while combating other enemies, aided all the while by one of the companion character's unique attacks.
It's this steady increase in complexity and difficulty that ultimately defines Beyond Good & Evil, and the elegance with which it accomplishes the task is its greatest achievement. Even when completely new and unknown conventions are introduced, the intuitive design of the game leads to almost immediate comprehension and success.
Since the puzzles themselves are never particularly difficult to solve, the game won't pose too much of a challenge to fans of truly testing titles. An extra helping of difficulty would have been appreciated, but it has to be remembered that the game is eight years old. With several releases in the meantime that redefined what a puzzle title can be -- Portal, Limbo, even Braid -- the simplicity of BG&E's riddles may be an artifact of age, not design.
There's no question that the HD presentation of the game is a great improvement, and removes nearly all signs of aging -- with one notable exception. It seems that in the transition to Xbox Live, even the glitches in the original title were given new life on next-gen consoles.
During review, the "missing partner" bug reared its ugly head without warning, resulting in a game-ending glitch that required restarting the campaign entirely. The lesson, gamers: save early and often. Certainly not the type of glitch that typically makes its way into an XBLA title, but it's a compliment to the game's developers to say that replaying half the game wasn't a total chore.
It's these few signs of BG&E not being a modern creation that are the most difficult to judge upon completion. The game's story is simple and straightforward, but peppered with seriously emotional scenes that will have players eager to continue Jade's mission. The puzzles are never extremely difficult to solve, but a joy to complete.
One thing is for sure: anyone playing this game will find themselves wondering how much better the game would be if developed today. If Jade was given a second opportunity to explore a fully-realized city, like Rome in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, then Ubisoft would have a good chance of landing another major franchise.
While it's tempting to recommend that everyone purchase the game in an effort to convince Ubisoft that a full-blown sequel is in high demand, Beyond Good & Evil HD won't be for everyone. If you value incredibly deep combat and complex and extensive exploration, then the lighter nature of the game likely won't satisfy.
But if you enjoy an entertaining and varied experience with a unique style and sense of humor, then you've probably heard of BG&E already. At 800 MS Points the game is a steal, and more than worth the price. For those fans of the series who wish to see Beyond Good & Evil 2 become a reality, the game is unquestionably worthy of a second playthrough.
Above all else, Beyond Good & Evil HD stands as a perfect example of an intelligent, witty and inspired game that never threatens to alienate part of its wide audience with overly complex or difficult challenges. Great games never age, and BG&E might just be the best downloadable game that Xbox Live has to offer.
See for yourself how Jade became one of the characters who defined a decade of gaming by picking up Beyond Good & Evil HD now for 800 Microsoft Points on Xbox Live. A PSN release will be coming soon.