I was one of the many that found Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s previous game, Rez, utterly compelling and totally addictive. The combination of thumping soundtrack and bold visuals made for a game that I still go back to several years later. Rez is the reason I’ve been watching Child of Eden with an almost unhealthy interest, and now the game is here at last.
Child of Eden doesn’t start how you might expect it to. In this age of CGI it’s surprising to find the opening cutscene is of an actual woman, named Lumi. With mankind venturing deep into space, all their knowledge was placed and stored on the Internet, which is now called ‘Eden’. Way down deep in the confines of Eden lies the memory of the first child born in space; Lumi. We are shown Lumi wandering through Eden, which looks to be a tranquil place, before the environment starts to warp and change and we realise she is under attack from a virus. The cutscene ends with a simple statement: Save Lumi.
Despite containing absolutely no narration, the opening cutscene is actually quite powerful with a strong visual pull that compels you to continue. You don’t know Lumi, you’ve only seen her for under a minute, and yet when she is enveloped by that black cloud you know you are going to do everything you can to eliminate the virus.
At its core Child of Eden is an on-rails shooter. Yes, you can look around whilst aiming but you can’t decide your course as that’s predetermined. Sweeping your aiming reticule over targets, whilst holding the ‘A’ button, will see you lock onto up to eight at a time. Releasing the ‘A’ button will see a barrage of projectiles head towards the targets. To mix things up you will only be able to get passed some targets by using your alternative weapon, which is a rapid-fire device with no lock-on. If things become too tough then you can unleash a dose of Euphoria, which is essentially a smart-bomb.
“Ok, but this sounds a bit average”, I hear you cry. Well, there are several reasons why Child of Eden stands tall above its contemporaries. First up are the sumptuous visuals, which are absolutely stunning to the point where it’s hard to see a game coming up that will have the same impact. They are vivid and chocked full of details that one might miss the first time around, simply because your eyes will be all over the place. It’s hard to get across in words how impressive they are, particularly as the game continues to through new concepts at you.[drop]One example would be a level starting off with one ominous looking ball on-screen. Firing at this uncovers that it is not a ball, but a cell, and by shooting it you aren’t actually attacking but triggering mitosis. After a while the cell divides but the two new cells begin to attack each other, swirling and crashing with suitably impressive pyrotechnics. Throughout the level these cells evolve until they become two giant men made of energy, running across the level forever destined to fight one another. Simply amazing.
That also raises another interesting point. Whereas Rez was all about destruction, Child of Eden is more about evolution. Firing at a flower will help it bloom; shooting at a giant energy whale will see it evolve into a Phoenix. It really is a beautiful concept.
Once you get past the visual feast there is the immense soundtrack to enjoy. Every level has a beat running in the background, and every action you take adds a layer to that beat. A simple shot will be rewarded with a simple sound, but multiple attacks will build until the beat reaches a crescendo and one of the best soundtracks I have come across.
Then there is the Kinect support. We’ve all had a giggle at the “better with Kinect” logos, but Child of Eden is the game we have been waiting for. Moving your arm sees the aiming reticule move, with no lag, so it’s simply a case of sweeping back and forth across the screen. Firing requires no more than a flick of your fingers, and the feeling of empowerment is most enjoyable. Your rapid-fire weapon can be controlled with your left hand and that’s even simpler. The only thing that doesn’t quite work is Euphoria, as it requires you to throw both hands in the air (like you just don’t care) which sends the camera a bit wonky.
It does take a couple of levels to become fully comfortable with the Kinect controls, but after that initial introduction period it almost becomes second nature. I wouldn’t go as far as saying the Kinect scheme is better than the controller, but it certainly adds an interesting, and more importantly fun, way to play.
After all this it does pain me to say that the game does have one major downside: It’s just too short. You can easily play through the five levels in less than two hours. There are lots of things to unlock, and high scores to post online, but for those who don’t like wringing every last point from a level you really won’t be getting value for money. It almost feels like a downloadable title, and with a reported hard drive install of about 2GB it’s not far off.
- Stunning to look at.
- Fantastic soundtrack.
- A joy to play.
- Kinect works very well.
- High replay value.
- Too short.
Child of Eden is a triumph. It’s beautiful to look at, and as good to listen to. It’s rare to come across a game that will make me smile throughout its entirety, but that’s what has happened here. It’s a pity the game is so short, but there is no doubt you will return time and time again. It won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but if this review has whetted your appetite, then dive right in.