THIS REVIEW WILL INCLUDE SPOILERS.
I planned originally to do a play-by-play of my run through the game, like a walkthrough with commentary. As I played, however, that soon changed. I found myself playing for long periods of time and losing track of tasks I had done hours before, and it was inevitable I couldn't keep taking notes while playing. This announcement also serves as a good precursor into my review; the game is just that good.
The lucky bastards out there who tried this game back in 2003, I applaud you. If you bought it, you deserve a standing ovation. The few of you that actually did. You see, if it weren't for the crap sales and the metacritic success the game had, there's a possibility a high definition remake wasn't going to happen. Sales were mediocre enough to call for a remake, and I'm sure Ubisoft wanted to test the waters for the impending sequel. Regardless of the developer's intentions, the game is now out and I have been enjoying myself immensely.
The story is rather straightforward: you play as Jade, a photojournalist tasked with saving your mining colony home Hillys from an alien species known as the DomZ. Jade is asked to join the rebel group IRIS Network, who believes the ruling power, the Alpha Sections, are not protecting the people, but instead hiding malicious wrongdoings. Accompanying Jade is her geezer bacon-filled friend Pey'j (a fifty-year-old pig), who is quite useful both in combat and getting through puzzles and boss fights. The story is solid and it still holds up even after seven long years. At the end, you really feel for the characters and the situations they find themselves in, especially after the credits. The scene is pivotal in setting up a sequel.
Plot aside, I wish the game presented itself as having a darker tone. It seemed too lighthearted given the circumstances near the end; thousands of people were kidnapped and the DomZ aren't the killing machines I expected. If the DomZ were presented in a more despicable fashion, the satisfaction of killing the high priest would overshadow the feeling of happiness after everyone is saved. I want to see murderous beasts; not cute little puppies.
The characters are amicable; Jade being the strong, female lead and Pey'j being the disgruntled, clumsy elder. The quips between the two range from obnoxious to hilarious, some being flat out ridiculous, but then again such a relationship I'd expect to have positive and awkward moments. I would talk about the other characters more but spoilers are abound so I'll shut my trap. It is fun to converse with Jamaican rhinos, though.
One mechanic (innovative back in the day if I'm not mistaken) made specifically for the collectible freak out there, is the ability to take photos of the different creatures that exist on Hillys. The Science Center wants to document all living organisms for reference, and you can earn Optima (the currency) quickly by snapping shots. This will be the main fuel of money in the game, and most creatures will count toward the total. Once a roll of film is done, a pearl will be yours so this is worth doing. There is an achievement for completely eleven rolls of film so get animal hunting!
Many aspects of Beyond Good & Evil are reminiscent of Jak & Daxter. The combat and gameplay are generally the same, with an emphasis on exploration. In Jade's quest, there are plenty of side missions to complete, so explore every nook-and-cranny of the map. The prized possession (although illegal) of the citizens of Hillys is pearls, and these can be bought from vendors, defeating bosses, and completing side-tasks. Collect as many as you can; that's all I'm saying. Combat feels lacking and tacked-on; battles, especially boss fights, are unnecessarily easy. I know the intent was to tell a compelling story, and Ubisoft achieved that with flying colours, but combat could have been at least challenging. Of the several side missions available, the hovercraft races are a cinch; my favourite would have to be the Looters' Caverns. In a race against time, Optima is on the line and one mistake can cost you big bucks. Those sequences are the true test of skill with the hovering machine and most took me a few tries to down.
As much as I wish it was, the game is not perfect. Seven long years have passed, and the game is showing its age. Persistent frame rate issues and constant loading screens are a drag, but don't hinder the experience enough to render it avoidable. A compelling story, lovable characters and the willfulness to save an entire civilization overshadow the faults, and make for one heck of a package. A sequel is incoming, so I can't wait. Hurry up on that Ubisoft!