|System: Xbox 360|
|Release: March 2, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Sean Engemann
In anticipation of a new movie release, have you ever cracked open an old book to relive the adventure? While the fate of Beyond Good & Evil 2 is unknown, it's rather curious that with rumors and questions from anxious fans on the rise, Ubisoft unleashed an updated version of the original masterpiece a little over seven years after its inception.
Sadly, Beyond Good & Evil flew under the radar when it launched. Due to poor marketing from Ubisoft, who was preoccupied with the launch success of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and being overshadowed by a slew of marquis games during the 2003 holiday season, sales were dismal, and the price plummeted in stores just to get it off the shelves. However, the critics have kept hope alive. With above average reviews, and the acclaim of being in several high-profile top game lists, gamers who missed their opportunity at the launch have heard the whispers, and their curiosity moved them to take a peek. So, read on as I reveal the many reasons why Beyond Good & Evil HD is worth the pocket change required to download it.
The story, while having a few clichés (some intentional and others not), delivers a fabulous arc, with memorable characters and a great blend of action, intrigue, and humor. You play as Jade, a young reporter/photographer who resides on a lighthouse island with her adoptive uncle Pey'j, a humanoid pig mechanic with a big heart and a plumber's crack. For centuries, the world of Hyllis has been under attack by an alien force called the DomZ. An elite group called the Alpha Sections help repel the alien menace, but a rebel faction called IRIS believe that their protectors are secretly involved with the DomZ in the conquest of Hyllis. Now, Jade has turned her lighthouse into a shelter for children whose parents have secretly disappeared. During an attack, the shield surrounding the lighthouse fails, allowing alien creatures to plummet onto the island and attempt to kidnap the children, which Jade and Pey'j narrowly avert. The Alpha Sections appear conveniently afterwards with a news crew, which brings Jade into the media spotlight. Out of cash, jobs are suddenly offered, and in order to pay the power bill and keep the juice running for the shield, Jade hastily takes them up.
Much of the gameplay revolves around the clever use of Jade's equipment, most notably her camera. Your first and ongoing mission is to snap pictures of the different fauna of Hyllis and upload them to the science center, where your account is immediately credited. These credits are used to purchase various expendable items to heal yourself, repair your hovercraft, or grant a temporary physical or mechanical boost. Also, after capturing the images of eight unique species, you'll receive an extra reward, whether it's an upgrade to your camera, pearls, or other items. Pearls are the rare form of currency on the planet. By defeating enemy bosses, winning various minigames, or purchasing them from shifty merchants, these gemstones can be used at the local garage to supe up your hovercraft with new weapons, engines, and more. Since the hovercraft is the only method of transportation from place to place, you'll spend a lot of time in the driver seat. But don't feel hurried to your next destination; enjoy the freedom of the open waters. There's a nice chunk of area to explore where you can search around for animals to snap, find secret locations filled with booty, shoot down enemy sentries, or, if you're feeling the itch for speed, try your luck at the races.
On land, you'll find yourself running Jade and one of her two cohorts through mines, factories, and other enemy facilities, filled with monsters and puzzles. Armed with her dai-jo staff, Jade can swat through enemies, supplementing her standard attack with special powers by both herself and Pey'j, and later an IRIS agent named Double H. By most current action standards, and even back in 2003, the combat is a bit shallow. Defeating most enemies and bosses requires rudimentary skill with the buttons, dodging away and then attacking. However, having to keep an eye on your health as well as you allies, working the camera, and moving and attacking, you may still find yourself at the mercy of several enemies pummeling you from different directions. Should you fall in battle, you are returned very near to the point of demise, where you can quickly reengage. Besides a button prompt, you won't directly control your teammate, and often you'll curse the AI for having him run ahead and being overwhelmed by monsters, leaving you to swat through enemy ranks to rescue him. Since the combat is simple enough to master, it's an easy flaw to overlook.
Outside of battle, you will find puzzles at almost every turn. Many of them are straightforward, requiring you to flip a switch by shimmying between two walls or using your projectile to press the A button. Your camera gives information on various machines and whatnot, which helps you solve the problem, as well as uploading barcodes to provide passwords for opening certain doors. I was very impressed with the helix design of inputting codes with the analog stick, and would recommend this style for every text based entry on other games. Along with puzzle solving, a large part of the action involves sneaking past Alpha Sections patrol teams to access different areas. You have the option to debilitate the guards, but it becomes increasingly difficult and tedious as you progress. The stealth tactics are quite intuitive, with many variations in each environment, but if you're a hack and slash enthusiast, this game just doesn't have enough to satiate your appetite.