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The GoodAs a rule, I hate "family" games, films, anything, I hate cute anthropomorphic animals, I really hate games that only let you save at checkpoints. And I usually dislike pastel colors.
Despite all this, I absolutely loved Beyond Good & Evil.
Maybe it's the way the anthropomorphic animals look more relaxed than all-out cutesy. Maybe it's the subversiveness of the way this game, rated nine years and up, shows a militaristic leader distracting people from the truth with propaganda rhetoric. Maybe it's that I got a bit of Thief-like sneaky action again. And that Spanish hip-pop works amazingly well.
Let me elaborate. Our heroine is Jade, freelance reporter who runs an orphanage in her spare time. No, wait, it's not cutesy. ...okay, so maybe it is cutesy, but it works, really. Just trust me on this. Anyway, the object of the game is to take photos to uncover the truth. No, wait, it's cool, it really is. You get to ride this hovercraft around between islands, and as a side income, you take photos of rare animals... Wait, where are you going? I said it works, don't you trust me? Can't stand this non-violent nonsense, you say? Well, when she's attacked, she's got this stick to beat monsters with, see, and it has this super-attack which makes it glow--
...very well, I'll just sit here talking to myself, then.
Jade gets around both on foot and in hovercraft, and, eventually, a spaceship. Searching for rare animals and taking their picture is actually where the big money is in this game: A lot of effort went into designing the teeming animal life of the planet, something like eighty species. This is simply the most brilliant secret-object-hunting excuse ever; and it adds to the tension of fights, as you'll want to get out the camera and take a snapshot of the monsters you're about to beat into a pulp.
Unusually, you spend most of the playing time with a companion to help you in fights, use special skills and operate equipment; think Lost Vikings with less frustration and some fresh gains on the format. The sneaky bits are generally excellent, and very suspenseful despite the cartoon esthetics.
With the roaming around the islands and the money-earning, you get the feeling of GTA3-style freedom, while in fact the design is quite tight. This allows for a lot of special-case scenarios: Every place in the game feels truly unique, never a cookie-cutter repetition; practically every problem has to be faced with a new twist, right up to the end. There are several sub-games such as racing and board games, and replaying the game to find all the hidden areas reveals an impressive variety - this also means you have several paths to finish the game. Combinations of paths, even.
The BadOf course, this level of quality can't be kept up indefinitely, and because of this, the game feels short but sweet - moreso because you'll be constantly glued to the screen. You'll wish for two more sequels to appear within the year.