A guest review by Hossain Behbahani
A Sensory Explosion
Highly anticipated Child of Eden made a positive impression at E3 in 2010, not least for the fact that it was one of the few Kinect titles that didn’t include ‘dance’ or ‘sports’ in its name. A year on and this is still unfortunately the case. With Microsoft promising some more ‘hardcore’ titles with Kinect compatibility at this year’s E3, for the moment Child of Eden is arguably the only Kinect title that any gamer without an impressive set of love handles might show some interest in. And interest is what this game demands. The poetic concept of synaesthesia; where every sound has a movement and every movement has a sound, resonates through this experience thus melding game with gamer and, ultimately, gamer with game.
Any storyline with this type of game is very much videogame convention rather than necessity. What you need to know is that in the 23rd century, scientists are attempting to recreate within Eden (known to you and me as the internet) the personality of Lumi; the first human born in outer space, whose memories and experiences were recorded and archived. In a time of space exploration, Eden is the fountain from which all knowledge flows to those who have never known what it is like to set foot on Earth. Understandable then, that a virus corrupting Eden and its new persona, Lumi, is cause for concern. This is where you come in.
Evolution Resumes Its Inevitable March Forward
When considering Child of Eden, it is impossible not to mention Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s previous psychedelic shooter, Rez. The integration of sound and sight as well as the virtual reality, spacey, computer network setting echoes in both games. However, comparing Rez to Child of Eden is akin to comparing the first upright walking ape to modern man. Ancestors yes, but an altogether different species. Ten years on from Rez, and Child of Eden can actually implement Mizuguchi’s dream of uniting the sights and sounds of the game with the gamers’ movements with extraordinary success. This is very much due to the presence of Kinect compatibility. Often I’ve found myself entirely immersed in a game’s storyline, feeling what the characters are going through and watching them grow into heroes or villains or badass master assassins or whatever. This is the first time I’ve ever been entirely immersed in a game’s gameplay.
Child of Eden’s success is in its simplicity. You use your right hand to lock on to targets and then give it a quick push or flick forward to release your projectiles. Enemy projectiles heading your way and the occasional purple enemy can only be dispatched by using your left hand which controls your rapid fire weapon called the Tracer. Feeling overwhelmed by enemies and enemy projectiles? Put your hands in the air like you just don’t care! Using Euphoria clears the screen of anything malicious toward you and it looks and feels just fantastic. Strategic use of Euphoria is essential for purifying your way through some of the more difficult levels and believe me, they can get very difficult. There are no check points here either. Should you die on the end boss 15 minutes into the level, you go straight back to the beginning. This gives the game an arcade-type feel, although when you finally do purify your way through to the end of the level, you feel a greater sense of accomplishment.
If you don’t own a Kinect sensor, then you’re stuck playing with your controller. You use the left stick to move the reticule. There is a button for the lock-on laser, one for the Tracer and one for Euphoria. The controls are smooth and somewhat more accurate than your own hands, although the reticule moves much slower, making it difficult to take out enemies on either side of the screen. Make no mistake though; you’ll want to play this game with the Kinect sensor. The difference between the two control styles is the difference between watching a film on your laptop in your bedroom and watching a film at the cinema with surround sound and in 3D. There is no comparison. Incidentally, this game would have worked great in 3D, but alas that is just a pipe dream.
Every So Often, All the Elements Come Together – That Moment Is Now
Even without 3D compatibility, Child of Eden is beautiful. Each level is unique, ranging from your average ride through space, to spacey oceans, to spacey machine cities. Everything, from the settings to the enemies to the purified ‘life forms’ that inhabit Eden, are rendered with an ethereal transparency that suits the tone of the game perfectly. Child of Eden also does the little things well. One example is that your life bar changes appearance according to the level you’re playing. You’re looking to keep hold of your flower petals in one level and your machine cogs in the next.
The music and the sound effects are one and the same. Each time you shoot an enemy or its projectile, you get a little music beat. Whenever the Tracer is used, there is a constant beat that always sounds good with the soundtrack. Genki Rockets provide the tracks used in the game and their bright Japanese pop style compliments the mood of the game beautifully. More than once I’d caught myself bopping along to the upbeat soundtrack while purifying Eden.
A Wing and a Prayer, Hope Takes Flight
Unfortunately, Child of Eden is not without its faults. It probably won’t hold much interest for those who don’t own a Kinect; although it is a beautiful and vastly enjoyable shooter, its real selling point is the immersion one feels while purifying Eden with one’s own hands. In addition, despite it not being a dance or sports title, you certainly feel as if you are getting a workout and this will not be to everyone’s taste. The main drawback is undoubtedly its length. Child of Eden will not take you very long to complete, although I’ve already found that replaying the missions is far more rewarding than most other games in the market.
The Final Verdict
If you own a Kinect and you want an experience in synaesthesia, then this is definitely the game for you. There’s no pretence in Child of Eden, it’s an immersive, bright, and beautiful game that above all offers a lesson in having fun. Not once did I stop playing this game without a smile on my face.