If I didn't know any better, it looks like Beyond Good & Evil is finally getting the recognition it deserved back in 2003. Rumblings of a sequel in development still haven't died, Jade is now widely recognised as one of the most memorable heroines, and the game is getting a second lease of life through Xbox Live Arcade's House Party promotion. It's heartening to know that this underrated game hasn't been forgotten, but ultimately it doesn’t play as crisply as the overhauled visuals would suggest.
Returning to Beyond Good & Evil is an interesting experience, because I didn't complete it in the brief time I first owned it. Ubisoft didn't go to the same lengths to promote the game as it did with Prince of Persia, and by the time I got my hands on a copy my attention was focused on everything else released during that Christmas season.
Now that I've seen the whole story of Jade, Pey'j, and the fate of the planet Hillys, I'm less baffled at why Ubisoft continues to dangle the promise of a sequel in front of fans. Beyond Good & Evil HD looks great, even if a lack of polish elsewhere makes it feel like the developers only addressed the issues that were strictly necessary to that “HD” tag.
This is still a charming and unique adventure, though, and that shines through at every moment. Memorable characters, colourful scenery and stellar voice acting are all complemented by wonderful art design that was ahead of its time in 2003, and still impresses in 2011 – thanks in no small part to the revamped textures that look entirely at home in 1080p.
Along with the smart puzzles and well implemented collection quests, Jade's ever-present side job of photographing the animal life of Planet Hillys is a smart tactic that the developers use to draw the players attention to the refreshing style and artwork that makes the game come together so well.
However, while Beyond Good & Evil HD looks so good, it's equally disappointing to see blemishes on a port that's had such a long time to gestate. Stealth is a lot harder than it should be, thanks to a shoddy camera that seems worse with age, and I encountered a generous handful of moments where a badly-placed jump landed Jade outside of the level's programmed boundaries with no way to get back in.
Overall, Beyond Good & Evil HD doesn't feel as responsive as a current-generation platformer should. The combat, in particular, never goes deeper than "mash the X button and dodge-roll," and Beyond Good & Evil HD can't help but show its age in places, despite the high shine on the surface.
Still, at a mere 800 Microsoft Points (around £7), Beyond Good & Evil HD is a fantastic distraction from other space-bound epics that use environments with 40 different shades of brown. The niggling issues tarnish the experience somewhat, but I’m taking that as visible evidence that Ubisoft is hard at work on the sequel. This is one game that truly deserves one.
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