Beyond Good & Evil HD is a time capsule choc-full of charm. It’s still a joy to guide plucky photojournalist Jade through a whimsical Wikileak fraught with conspiracies, hovercraft shootouts, oppressive governments and alien invaders. There’s also something to be said for the unique setting, where humans co-exist with anthropomorphised animals, such as rasta rhino shopkeepers, bull bartenders and pig-men Jerry. Pig-men.
Partnered up with your bacon buddy, Pe’j, the ultimate goal is to uncover and thwart an intergalactic plot using Zelda-style combat and light puzzling, a smattering of stealth, and Pokemon Snap photo-voyeurism. Getting your paparazzi on with a camera is an important mechanic of BG&E as Jade hopes to infiltrate secret government installations and collect evidence of shady dealings. In order to fund these shit-stirring Today Tonight antics you'll have to undertake a National Geographic style sidequest that has you snapping local wildlife for cash. It's surprisingly addictive and sucks you into the world just that little bit more.
Cockblocking a conspiracy sounds like serious stuff, but in reality it's all delivered with quite quirky, cartoonish visuals. Fortunately, this low-tech art direction has helped to preserve BG&E against what would ordinarily be a sizeable generation gap in visuals. But while the ravages of time have been kind and there has been some nip and tucks done, there’s still no way a current-era gamer would mistake this HD update's simplistic textures and muppet voice synching for a new release title. That said, the remastered soundtrack fares much better in the remake stakes and is just as bat-shit eclectic as ever.
There are still some legacy issues that still plague BG&E. The camera system doesn’t always hand over the reins to you and can be as stable as a cat tied to a vacuum cleaner when you walk into the wrong corner. Likewise, the original voice acting is acceptable at best, but a touch rough or eccentric in places (a flamingly-effeminate Spanish man is my personal AI system? Really?). Also the huge dungeons and metropolis areas are annoyingly divided into bite-sized levels book-ended by loading screens. Newer gamers will wonder why these old artefacts of design weren’t lifted out, but they really don’t negatively affect the experience much at all.
At the end of the day, Beyond Good & Evil still has all the hallmarks of a timeless classic. The watery planet of Hillys was deliberately built to match the quaintness of Hyrule, and yet there’s a harder edge here that enables much deeper emotional attachment to the narrative and the characters. Even though this is a Spartan HD remake with sweet bugger all extras added, it’s hard not to be seduced by the perfect-pacing, worthwhile exploration and the distinctly “French” story and setting. At a piddling 800 MS points this is absolutely worth revisiting or is must-play material if you’ve never shot a government to death before (using only a camera).