Beyond Good & Evil (2003) Personal Review

The screenshots on this page are from GOG. I encourage you to buy Beyond Good & Evil from!

The Rayman Series is one of my all-time favorites, and there has always been this voice in my head suggesting to try out Beyond Good & Evil – the other famous game by Rayman’s renowned creator – Michel Ancel. Released in 2003, between Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time), it flew past my radar, and many other radars as well, and never became a commercial success.

Those who did play, generally gave very positive reviews, and last year someone mentioned in a passing conversation that it was one of the best games they had ever played. Intrigued, I’ve decided to finally give it a shot. Long story short – I was not disappointed. 🙂

I was a bit unsure how the action/adventure mix would work for me, as I mostly prefer simple action games that don’t require a large time investment just to learn the mechanics. My worries turned out to be for naught – the game’s learning curve is quite smooth and newbie-friendly. Even without reading the manual, things were mostly self-explanatory. The manual can prepare you for things that come up before they happen, though, so reading it may still be a good idea.


The diversity of the BG&E becomes obvious early on and stays strong until the end. The game offers a healthy mix of traditional platforming, traps and obstacle courses, all-out combat, stealth, vehicle racing, vehicle combat (which can be done in first or third person), puzzle-solving and several “boss” fights. The latter are more than just tough enemies; defeating them is frequently a puzzle in itself – requiring tricks or special mechanics. Each flavor of gameplay is easily identifiable, and yet they blend together very naturally, so that nothing feels forced. Consider the following example:

You hop in the hovercraft and fly around the waters of Hillys. One path will take you into a “cave of wonders” where you have to race a “looter” vehicle for the prize of a pearl. A different road leads into the pedestrian area, where you disembark and walk around. You have the option of going into a bar and accepting your next mission, or sneak past guards and obstacles in a hidden warehouse to claim more pearls. Whoops! You’ve been spotted and the entire unit is now chasing you with rifles and bombs – time for a quick sequence of jumping, rolling and dodging until you manage to escape. Now you are right back at the main courtyard, where you can relax, save your game, and choose the next place to go to.

There are enough segments of each style so that they all feel integrals part of the game, not gimmicks. In this regard, BG&E reminded me a lot of the Grand Theft Auto series, although the overall tones of the games are nothing alike.


BG&E default control scheme on the PC is WASD + mouselook, with primary actions mapped to mouse buttons, and additional actions to various keyboard keys. This is something almost every PC gamer should feel comfortable with. Strangely, the game offers no built-in way to remap any of the controls, and there is no gamepad/joystick support at all – both highly unusual for a platformer of that era. There are remedies: an external settings application in the GOG version can change the keyboard/mouse controls (although not all of them), and third-party tools exist to map controller inputs to keyboard/mouse commands (e.g., reWASD).

Although I tend to prefer keyboard-only for third-person action games, with BG&E I stayed with the original control scheme, which turned out to be very intuitive. I believe keyboard-only would not work here, as even the GOG settings application cannot assign keys to camera control.


3.5 years after Daikatana‘s notorious fiasco with sidekicks, I’m pleased to announce that BG&E handled this aspect much better. The key is simplicity; the game does not aspire to make your companions – Pey’j and Double-H – as smart or as versatile as you. Instead they perform specific tasks at predefined times or obey your direct commands to achieve certain objectives. Where they follow you around, the areas are usually easy to navigate, so AI pathfinding is simple, and they don’t get stuck. They are typically not present during the difficult obstacle courses, so as not to get in your way or die accidentally. Most of the combat involving companions is simple hand-to-hand, where they can typically hold their own (and automatically use any health-replenishing items you’ve given them). While it is possible for them to be killed in combat (forcing you to restart the section), it is pretty rare, unless you play really poorly and let your sidekicks take all the beating.

Most of the time, except towards the very end of the game, only one of the two will accompany you, which no doubt also helped to keep the AI algorithms simpler and less error-prone. Overall, I felt the primary contribution of the companions is not in the action, but in the dialog which helps unravel the story and offers hints to certain puzzles. Thus, they truly feel like companions, not just sidekicks you must drag along.

Story and Progression

The story of BG&E is certainly more involved than that of any Rayman game, and worthy of an adventure game, although nothing I would define ‘epic’. Without giving too much away, I would say that there were fewer plot twists than I was expecting, and it becomes clear almost immediately who the good and bad guys are. You know more or less where your adventure is going to lead, it is merely of question of how many steps it will take. There isn’t significant depth to any of the characters, other than Jade and Pey’j, and not much character development either. A couple of minor surprises do occur towards the end of the game, but they do not change the overall impression left by the story.

Game progression, on the other hand, is very tight. The first scene introduces the mechanics of combat, and soon after you learn about inventory management, using your camera and utilizing the Mdisk readers to save your game or get additional instructions. As soon as you gain access to the hovercraft – the entire game world is laid in front of you, but there are some areas where you cannot go yet; you will gain access over time, with hovercraft upgrades, keys that disable certain barriers and passcodes than unlock doors. Each new area visited may introduce another piece to the puzzle, or an item that can be used to visit new sections of past areas. The world is truly open, as almost up until the very end of the game you can go between any two points and revisit any place.

The game offers multiple incentives to revisit past areas. Sometimes it is required for progress – to get the next mission in Akuda Bar, or buy the next vehicle upgrade at Mammago Garage. In other cases you may do so to obtain some more pearls or credits – the two main currencies of the game. Credits are the “bread and butter” currency – used to buy health upgrades and vehicle repair pods (of which you may need a steady supply) as well as some specialty items. They are won by defeating monsters, shooting “loot boxes” floating in various parts of the sea or winning minigames at the bar. Your main source of income, though, is taking animal photos with your camera and sending them to the Science Center, so take heed each time you see a species you haven’t photographed before.

Pearls are the more exotic currency, obtainable by winning races, destroying major monsters and looting hidden stashes. A few can be bought directly for credits or received for completing sets of animal photos, so all currencies in the game are thus linked. The pearls are required to buy vehicle upgrades, which are mandatory to complete the game. You will need 71 pearls for that, out of a total of 88, so you can afford to skip some of them. Collecting all of them grants you access to a special bonus game – “Yo Pearl” – via the Mdisk reader.


I found BG&E to be on the easy side. Perhaps some of it is due to my rich experience with Ubisoft’s platformers, but I do feel the game was deliberately designed to be forgiving for new players. Several factors contribute to that:

  • Although the game can only be saved at specific locations (Mdisk readers), enough of them are scattered around. Usually there will be one before a challenging sequence takes place, and you can often use it immediately after as well, to save your progress, so you don’t have to repeat the hard section.
  • There are many checkpoints between save spots. Thus, even if you die, you will not be thrown too far back. You are penalized a bit, since you restart with only partial health, but you gain back the health items you had in your inventory at the checkpoint, and there is no limit to how many times you can use each checkpoint.
  • Between the photography, the loot and the combat bonuses, there is more than enough credits to last you through the end of the game. If you overspend, you can always go back to some locations that regenerate credits infinitely (in the form of respawning monsters or loot boxes), or just play the pallet / coconut shell games again and again (as long as you win, yes?). It may be a slow grind, but you will not get stuck in an unwinnable situation for not being able to afford health upgrades.
  • Some upgrades and health bonuses can be found along the path or in hidden rooms, completely free.
  • Combat is quite simple, and most battles are won either by coordinated button-mashing or some basic aim of your vehicle’s weapon. Boss battles are an exception, but once you figure out the tricks, they are not very long, not very hard and there is an unlimited number of attempts.
  • Indoor facilities can be maze-like, but every one of them has a map somewhere towards the entrance. Taking a photo of it gives you a full scrollable and zoomable automap to help you navigate. Your objectives will appear on this automap, so you will not get lost.
  • Towards the middle of the game you have the option to buy a pearl detector and an animal detector, which will tell you exactly where in the world there remain pearls unclaimed and animals unphotographed. Considering that you never lose access to any area (until you trigger the final mission sequence), this makes even a 100% completion quest a simple exercise of methodically scanning every area.

Most of the puzzles are intuitive, and if not totally obvious, chatting with your companions often reveals important tips. There is one aspect where the open world can be confusing – you may spend too much time trying to access places out of reach, only to find out that you need to get a specific item first. My tip: if you cannot figure it out quickly – just go on with the main missions – there is a chance things will become clear soon.

There were a couple of animal photos and pearls that I wanted for 100% completion, and got stuck on for a while. Some of them I eventually figured out, for others I broke down and consulted a guide. I will not mention them here to avoid spoilers, but none of them are mandatory to finish the game.

Tips (warning: some spoilers)

  • If the controls of the pallet game (against Francis in Akuda Bar) seem counter-intuitive, go into the menu and switch the camera/look mode from normal to reversed. After winning, switch them back. If you don’t want to lose 1000 credits every time you go after the pearl, just save right before the game (there is an Mdisk terminal in the bar) and reload if you lose.
  • Keep a backup save game on Hillys right before going to the moon. Once you progress too far in the moon mission (past the light beam stasis puzzle), the stellar motor will malfunction, and you will be stranded on the moon until the end of the game. For the same reason, buy as many health and vehicle pod items before going to the moon: you will not need credits for anything else past this point, and you want to be well-stocked for the final battles.
  • To get the secret Disk game (in the locker next to the pallet game in the bar), follow the instructions on this page: you can either upload your savegame file, or manually enter the code which appears next to your saved game in the menu. The Disk game is a customizable variant of the pallet game. You can play against another human or computer opponents of various skill, and there are optional features such as variable power shot and being able to swap pallets.

Graphics and Sound

For its release in 2003, the game was technically excellent. By then, we were past the early 3D polygon models which aged very poorly, and the game still looks reasonably good even today. The low resolution limit of contemporary consoles is solved by the HD-remastered version. The PC did not get an HD re-release, but supports high resolutions out of the box. The original version did not properly support widescreen ratios, but a mod can overcome this problem. The remaining gap (lack of upscaled textures) is fairly minor.

The musical score is great, and fits the atmosphere of the game perfectly, with a mixture of styles matching the different gameplay sections: relaxed and upbeat, merry and tense – you will find it all here. The score is considered by many to be a classic in its own right. You can listen to it on Raytunes.

The sound effects are nothing to write home about – they do their job: guns, bombs, thuds, electric barriers – all sound pretty much like what you expect. The voice acting is excellent, all the way from the main protagonists down to the most minor character. However, not all lines have voice-over; in fact, most of the interactive dialog does not, which was a bit disappointing. I suppose that recording all dialog in six languages was too monumental a task for the scope of the project back then. The game supports English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Dutch – all UI, in-game text and audio are fully translated. The language can be selected each time the game is started.


I heard it said that BG&E is a lot like The Legend of Zelda. Embarrassed as I am never to have played the latter, I cannot confirm this, but if that is so, it should give you an idea of whether you will like the game or not. Fans of casual platforming games and sci-fi-themed open worlds in general should also feel right at home. One advantage is that BG&E is almost entirely identical on every console and PC, so no matter what platform you prefer, you can get the full experience. The game is available for PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox, PlayStation 3 (via PlayStation Network) and Xbox 360 (via Xbox Live Arcade). For PC gamers, I recommend the GOG version as always, for being completely DRM-free. Fans of physical copies should have no problem finding used PC copies on eBay, but their DRM may not work with Windows 10, and require a no-CD patch.


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