Beyond Caring about Good & Evil
Way, way back in history, there was a game that I started but never finished called Beyond Good & Evil. I have always regretted my failure to complete the game as it comes up from time to time in conversations about cracking good games that were overlooked.
Recently, Ubisoft unlocked its cage, put it under the knife for a high-definition make-over, and then trotted it out as a downloadable for XBox Live. I snapped it up – err, down – and over the past week or so finally managed to finish its twelve hours of gameplay.
Spoiler: It’s not all that.
The premise of Beyond Good & Evil is everything you could possibly want: an open-world adventure wherein you play the part of Jade, an investigative reporter. Jade wears green lipstick and her adoptive father is a talking pig. Half of the inhabitants of this world are anthropomorphozitroned animals: sharks, birds, goats; some of her best friends are Rastafarian rhinoceroses.
This is a stealth game: getting into combat is not the idea. Your job is to break into places and take photographs of Very Bad Things to expose a Very Bad Conspiracy.
There’s also some hovercraft racing.
The game has a lovely, whimsical art direction that borrows from the Zelda series. The style suits the limitations of the engine well, and its voice acting is top-notch.
However, it feels like its only half of a game. The stealth components are creative but sometimes overlong. Combat (which shouldn’t be the focus of the game) shows up at irritating times. There are only two or three minigames. Character advancement is virtually non-existent.
I didn’t really feel any empathy for the oppressed people I was supposed to be saving. Jade and the Pig are supposed to be foster parents for a bunch of children who were orphaned in a war. Okay, fine. But later, (spoiler) those children are kidnapped by aliens to be used as food. I didn’t care because I had no sense about their character at all. They were introduced in act I and I promptly forgot about them as I went globe-trotting.
The greatest sin, however, is the lack of any real plot. There is a conspiracy, and there are Events That Happen, but at the end of the game, when all is revealed, I couldn’t find the capacity to care about anything that was happening. Mostly this was because it didn’t make sense.
There was some sort of mystical mumbo-jumbo shit that felt tacked on at the very end. Jade is somehow immortal? Or has some magical life-force inside her? And she can bring people back from the dead? These are revelations that happen in the latter half of the final act. I can’t help but think that the game would have benefited from some hints and clues to this being spread about during the previous ten hours.
Worse: I don’t really remember what happened in the game. I remember enjoying it while the controller was in my hand, but ultimately the story is lost. It is unlikely I’ll replay it.
It’s ten bucks. Take it or leave it.