Three separate people have recently asked me “what my deal is” with the game Beyond Good & Evil, which I frequently tout as my most favorite video game ever. It got me thinking about it pretty heavily, so I figured what they hell, time to post about the best video game ever made. Below is a sort of essay on why I love this game so much. No, it’s not a review in the least, unless you consider “fanboy gushings” to be a review.
The Heroine is Fantastic
In this game you play Jade, a gal who hates the establishment, is good at taking pictures, and is handy with a backflip and a gymnastics baton. She’s shrewd, caring, and knows that in order to save her way of life she has to step up and do what needs to be done. What Jade is not is another Jane Q. Titties McActionPants, star of generic summer spy-girl action game #23. She is perhaps the most non-sexist lead role female in a video game to date, and certainly the best such character that could serve as a role model for young gamer girls – much better than the usual “Boobs + Weapon = Success!” formula found in “icons” like Boobies McMurderGuns and Cleavage McStupidBlades.
Starts With a Bang
Every time I start a new game of BG&E, I’m instantly captivated by its opening sequence. When you select “New Game” from the main menu of BG&E, you area treated to 30 seconds (exactly) of story setup, in which you are made aware of all three of the main themes of the game: an unexplained alien invasion, a protective police state, and a heavy focus on video journalism. Following that clever introduction, the next 30 seconds (again, exactly) give you a visual introduction to the main protagonist of the game and the environment in which you’ll be spending most of your time playing. That’s when the action begins… and two minutes later there’s a boss fight. And ten seconds into that boss fight, a drawling auto-mechanic pig with a wrench drops through the ceiling and saves the day.
Five minutes into a game of Beyond Good & Evil, you’ve met the protagonist, learned the basics of the plot, fought some very original-looking alien things, learned how the buddy mechanics work, and defeated a boss. Hell yeah. That’s the kind of stuff I love in my games.
Unique and Immersive Setting
The canvas upon which this amazing game is painted is an original blend of sci-fi and pop culture elements. There’s a lot of style and imagination put into it, and despite mixing so many elements from so many classic sci-fi stories, it all comes across with a fresh and delicious taste. From the weird people-animal hybrids that populate the planet to the strange caves and structures you explore, right from the start you are thrown into a world that is simultaneously alien and familiar.
Each character you encounter in BG&E, from Jade to the talking Pig to the Jamaican rhinos to the gay Puerto Rican AI that lives in Jade’s, uh, “fanny pack,” is instantly memorable. There are lots of really well-acted voices, and it all works together flawlessly to make you feel like you’re in a brand new world.
One of the core mechanics of the game is that you must use Jade’s camera to explore the world and take pictures of everything from weird native flora and fauna to hidden secrets and espionage spy-stuff. From an immersion standpoint, this is just brilliant. You have to take pictures of creates and plants in order to make money, and by doing so, the game forces you to observe and review the game setting in a way that doesn’t seem heavy-handed in the least.
Engaging and Non-Repetitive Gameplay
BG&E has a fabulous mix of stealth, 3D environmental puzzle-solving, clever buddy mechanics, fast-paced combat scenes, and first-person scavenger hunting that kept me fully captivated for the entirety of its (very sadly short) story. I am a gigantic fan of stealth action games, especially those which take great efforts to encourage explorative playstyles. I find very few video games more engaging than those which allow me to just sneak around for house and find things I hadn’t previously seen. BG&E is just such a game, and it even throws in some pretty challenging action moments to keep you on your toes.
As for the buddy thing, well… Okay, let me get this out there: I frinkin’ love well-implemented buddy mechanics. BG&E has a system in which Jade will frequently find herself accompanied by a partner of some kind, be it the aforementioned grease-wrench Pig-man or another character you meet later in the game. There are spots all over the various levels where having your buddy with you can get you some nifty bonus rewards, or help push you further along in the stage. The implementation of this in BG&E is pretty simple, and you rarely have to even think about the controls. Plus, your helpers are fairly combat-capable, so they won’t hold you back in a brawl.
Beyond Good & Evil is the story of a neophyte freelance reporter named Jade, who goes on a quest to uncover a sinister and chilling conspiracy whose revelation could shake the very foundations of society. It’s not entirely original (what conspiracy story is?), but it’s quite compelling, and has enough twists and hooks to really suck you in. I can’t really say much here without giving some major spoilers, but I can say that you will not be disappointed with any of the directions it takes.
Dear God, The Music!
The score to BG&E, composed by Christophe Heral, is phenomenal. I even have it on my Zen and its tracks are in regular rotation on my daily playlists. What I appreciate most about it is how the music never once disconnects me from the game. It perfectly fits each and every in-game moment. While exploring it sounds inquisitive and comforting, while fighting it is pulsing and active, while sneaking it is eerie and foreshadowing. I hear the same guy is doing the music for the sequel, and that suits me just fine.
The Unfortunate Cons
Sadly, the game isn’t quite perfect (betcha never expected me to say that). There is one big glaring problem that I have with the game: it’s too damned short! There needs to be more! I could play this game forever and ever! I want to explore more of Hillys, and space, and the other planets in the solar system. I want to meet more of these weird people, and learn more about the bad aliens. I want a sequel! I’ve seen the teaser promo vids, and I’m frothing at the mouth. When this game comes out, I am so getting it, regardless of what system I have to buy.
I haven’t loved a game this much since The Longest Journey. In fact, after I’m finished with my current BG&E playthrough (must be, what, my fifth?), I’m totally reinstalling that title and going through it again.
But if none of that got you, well, here’s a video of girls kissing girls in video games.