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Review

Review: PixelJunk Eden

Genre-splitting audio-visual masterpiece hits PS3. And out tomorrow.

In simpler times, when games had 8 colours and two buttons, Bugaboo the Flea was a personal hero.   By holding down either ‘1’ or ‘0’ you could make the titular creature leap left or right, the length of the key press determining the distance you would jump.  With these simple commands you could climb the highest mountains, vaulting from craggy rock to plant like something out of the Matrix.  Back in 1983, 25 years ago, this was a revelation, and now, effortlessly, Q-Games have recreated that simple, freeflowing mechanic and made it work for a new generation of gamer.

Working closely with the talented Baiyon, Dylan Cuthbert and his team have woven a deceptively simple idea into a thoughtful, progressive videogame that succeeds on so many levels it’s staggering.  With the use of just a few buttons, the player can leap from plant to plant as he moves from Garden to Garden collecting Spectra.  Essentially a vertical platformer, Grimps, as the player characters are known, can propel themselves onwards via a thin line of silk enabling the game’s physics to shine.

As the Grimp collects pollen from the containers, more plants can grow and thus the paths through the Gardens become accessible, with a fall to Earth thankfully free of damage.  In fact, the dominant threat to the success of the level is the ever ticking Oscillator, or life gauge, which can be refilled by collecting yet another type of amoeba-like substance found floating around each area.  The music, building as it does throughout each Garden adds a sense of tension which coupled with the pulsing gauge means that a gently pressure is omnipresent as you gracefully swing from branch to branch looking for pollen.

Enemies populate some of the Gardens, and must be dealt with individually and although the Grimp has no direct weapon it’s usually enough to capture any beasties with your style or the deft use of the spin command, something that also enables you to pass through any branches you don’t wish to connect with.  The combination of spinning, swinging and movement can create a hypnotic mindset as you seek out the trickier paths upwards, and the game’s built-in Youtube recording will enable some brilliant speed runs from dedicated players, with combos to be gained by collecting items in a single leap or twirl of the silk.

Eden can be enjoyed with 2 of your friends too: the game’s three player simultaneous action is an unrivalled joy, and a blessing in the game’s latter stages as the action starts to hot up.  The game may only offer 10 distinct Gardens, but with a full rack of Trophies and the hope of the usual Pixeljunk continued support for additional levels (Eden Encore, anyone?) this is a game that will keep on giving long after you’ve bagged the game’s single Silver Trophy.

As with previous Pixeljunk games, we’d be lying if we said this was for everyone, but there’s a playable demo up on the US Store now (and one for Europe tomorrow, too) so you’ve no excuses for not trying the game.  For the rest of us, the hopeless addicts to anything 2D, it’s a remarkable title and yet another shining example of the excellent quality we’ve come to expect from the PSN Store when developers put their mind to it.  Almost as good as Bugaboo the Flea, then.

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