I finished Beyond Good & Evil last night, and I’m still jazzed about it. Kind of a dumb title, but a near-perfect game.

I couldn’t find a way to make screenshots, so what the heck, here’s my own interpretation of Jade, the main character:

Jade, ready for action

Ready for action, with dai-jo and green lipstick.

The game is from 2003 and looks a little cartoony, but it’s worth getting past that.  Jade is a reporter; as the developers are French I suspect this is inspired (consciously or not) by Tintin.  She has a camera and isn’t afraid to use it; taking pictures is both the major way to get money and to advance the plot.  It doesn’t sound difficult, but it can be tricky to get pictures of monsters you’re fighting.

Everything about the game is well done– the art design, the characters and story, the animation, the music, the voice acting– but what’s best about it is the balance.  It’s what Dreamfall tried to be without quite making it.  All the skills you learn, with the possible exception of the air hockey minigame, are needed, and often enough that you do master them.  The action is generally not difficult, but it’s varied enough so you never get bored: combat, sneaking, puzzle solving, racing, chase sequences, spaceflight.  Cutscenes are not too long or intrusive. 

(Dreamfall, by contrast, was trying to tell a story and be a game at the same time, and did it so clumsily that one wondered if it was possible at all.  BG&E makes it look effortless.)

I started the last sequence under the impression that I was well supplied with repair kits; it turned out I had just three.  I barely got through the last vehicle fights.  The last boss fight is difficult too, though not so bad once you’ve figured out the tricks.

Jade is well designed to appeal to both sexes.  She’s cute and has a bouncy walk that’s fun to watch; but she’s tough yet caring, dresses sensibly, and isn’t tied down by any romance. 

Sadly, the game didn’t do well when it was released, probably because it just doesn’t have the badass factor that brings out the 13-year-old boys and their wallets. 

I spent about 18 hours on it; an experienced gamer would probably take much less… I took my time on the races and the air hockey.  But hey, it’s $10 on Steam, so go get it RIGHT NOW.  I’m not sure how replayable it is, though I’m tempted to try the French version.

I don’t really have any complaints, except that the spacecraft controls are very wonky.  It’d also be nice if you could move the camera to look up or down (though you can do so by using the camera instead). 

There have been teasers for a sequel, one a little scene with Jade’s adoptive uncle, a humanoid pig, which mainly shows off a huge leap in rendering; and one where Jade using some amazing parkour to get away from some cops.  BG&E with Mirror’s Edge moves?  I would buy that game so hard.