At a time when the quality of some games can be measured by how many pints of blood are shed, it's nice to surface from the pools of gore and violence to play a game that takes a different direction.

"Beyond Good & Evil" is just such a game. Distributed by Ubisoft for the PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox and PC, "Beyond Good & Evil" takes the craft of photojournalism into the world of sci-fi.

Something strange is happening on the planet Hillys. A scary race of aliens, the DomZ, has begun attacking your beloved world and abducting citizens. Thank goodness for the elite military Alpha Section soldiers to protect the planet. Or are they?

In the game, you play a young and determined woman named Jade, who has tried to make a living as a for-hire photographer. Brought up by her adoptive half-pig (no, really, he's a pig) uncle, Pey'j, Jade lives with other orphans whose parents have been abducted.

The game eases you into the controls and action by first doing basic things. Your main weapons will be your camera and your smarts. Your first gig is to photograph all of the species on Hillys for a scientist. You'll soon be hunting for photos of creatures, large and small.

Some of the more dangerous creatures will fetch you more money, but you risk bodily harm. It becomes unnerving at times looking through the lens, trying to get a decent shot of a gigantic, toothy monster who wants to have you for breakfast.

The game has been rated "T for Teen" for violence and comic mischief.

Game controls are pretty simple, relegated to three basic buttons plus the select button for a pull-up menu and map.

To move around Hillys, you pilot a hovercraft, which can get upgrades to become space-faring. If you fail to maintain your hovercraft, you'll end up paying out for tow service and repairs.

Soon Jade is contacted by the IRIS Network, a renegade group of journalists who are trying to uncover a secret conspiracy between the Hillys government and the DomZ aliens. Jade is suddenly thrust into this twisty plot as she begins to infiltrate bases in search of photo evidence. It is here that in most games the character busts down the doors with guns a-blazing, but in this game, stealth is a premium.

Jade is not alone. She has several friends that will help her out when the time is needed. There is plenty of puzzle solving and you'll need your friends to get through the game.

Turning to the technical side of things, this game has some pretty impressive graphics. The ambient lighting on some levels has to be some of the best I've seen on a platform game. As an example: Jade finds herself in an abandoned mine. The caverns are lit with a variety of subterranean creatures who emit their own ghostly green light. Most impressive.

Although on the PlayStation 2 version there was some jagged edges, each character was unique and entertaining. The voice talent was pretty decent as well, which can easily turn a dramatic moment into an eye-roller.

It's rare when a good game plot comes together with decent game play and strong graphics. Although "Beyond Good & Evil" proved to be quite a sleeper this last holiday season, people looking for a unique and entertaining game could benefit from seeking this game out.


E-mail: gfattah@desnews.com