Monday, 4 July 2011

Game Review – Child of Eden

Formats: (PS3, Xbox 360)

Everyone wants a place to escape, a place to let your mind wonder and be free. This place, however each individual pictures it, will have similarities to Eden. Set in the distant future, Eden is a databank of human thoughts--chronicling all our emotions and transforming them into vivid eruptions of colours and patterns. Your goal is to save Lumi: the memories of the first child born in space, from a virus threatening to destroy Eden. This on-rails shooter is as sharp as it is vivid, as exhilarating as it is relaxing and as fixating as it is mesmerizing. Child of Eden is a revelation in the music-rhythm game genre.

Child of Eden does not stray far from Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s previous creation Rez. In fact, it builds upon the experience in intriguing ways. The mechanics for playing are very simple: an onscreen indicator is used to attack enemies, blue for lock-on and pink for rapid-fire. You can lock onto and destroy multiple blue enemies and use rapid-fire to shoot pink enemy projectiles to avoid taking damage. You are also given a euphoria mechanic that acts as an on-screen bomb, annihilating everything in a flurry of colours. The rhythm-based gameplay kicks in by forcing you to destroy blue enemies in time with the beat of the music and this is where Child of Eden’s Kinect compatibility really shines.

Although you can enjoy Child of Eden using a controller, the real experience comes using Microsoft’s clever camera peripheral. The camera allows you to use your arms and orchestrate a musical-visual simulation around you. Using your right arm you control the blue weapon and your left controls rapid-fire. Raising both hands in the air like you just don’t care unleashes euphoria. This simple control scheme works very well and apart from a few slight camera issues leaving you stranded on occasion, is definitely the best way to enjoy Child of Eden. That’s not to say that the game is less fun on the pad--in fact some people prefer having the button layout and vibration function to keep time with the music (even though you can stick a controller in your pocket while using the Kinect for the same effect). Whichever way you choose to play Child of Eden, the game certainly entertains.

Child of Eden continues to entertain throughout each unique level--each themed after a specific part of life on earth. Examples include the gorgeous Beauty level full of plants and water--feeling like a tribute to Gaia, a structured industrial city known as Passion and Evolution, concluding with an enchanting boss battle between you and a whale transforming into a phoenix. Speaking of boss battles, each level ends with a mesmerizing final encounter, which are certainly the highlights of Child of Eden.

You can’t really talk about Child of Eden and not mention the phenomenal soundtrack present. The euphoric techno-trance is emotional and powerful, bringing you back to each level as you want to hear the beautiful music over and over. The in-game sounds of enemies falling like water drops or shattering into shards of colour deserve just as much praise as the songs themselves, but you simply cannot explain how the visuals, sound and gameplay merge together to create such an ambiance and such a thrilling experience.

Child of Eden’s competitive appeal certainly derives from your need to reach the highest scores and completely purify Eden. The trick to this is to rack up multipliers by consistently purifying eight blue enemies at a time. At first I found the flicking motion required to eliminate enemies off screen with the right hand quite difficult--but after a bit of practice I was stringing combos together with relative ease. When you get comfortable Child of Eden picks up the pace and unleashes a barrage of colours and vibrant enemies your way--some of which were quite difficult to keep track on screen at times and I found myself taking damage but not knowing exactly what caused it. Repeating levels and becoming familiar with them is perhaps the best way to memorize some of the harder portions of the game, even though levels do change based on your scores and previous run-throughs.

Unfortunately your time with Child of Eden feels like an all-to-brief love affair because before you know it, you reach the end. Comprised of only five levels, you can complete it in one sitting. Child of Eden does leave you wanting more and offers some excellent extra content, percentage completion challenges and harder difficulty settings. Child of Eden is certainly not an easy game, especially if you’re looking to hit the high scores and fully purify Eden. This will keep perfectionists coming back for more while the more casual gamers can enjoy the Explore Eden game-mode that allows you to play without worrying about dying (note levels played on Explore Eden mode have to be completed and unlocked in the normal game first).

Ultimately Child of Eden is a bold attempt at something beautiful, engaging and entertaining. While seemingly brief, this artistic masterpiece has enough content to keep you coming back to the world of Eden and exploring every beautifully designed level. Simple and enjoyable mechanics and clever use of the Kinect ensure you will have a fantastic time with Child of Eden, however brief that may be.

7.0 - Gameplay
Simple mechanics and clever use of the Kinect finally make hands-on motion gaming enjoyable and entertaining.

10.0 - Presentation
A beautiful presentation alongside a mesmerizing soundtrack helps Child of Eden to create an atmosphere like no other.

5.0 - Replay Value
With only 5 levels, the extra content, challenges and high-scores are worth coming back for, but downloadable levels would be a fantastic addition.

7.5 - Final Thoughts
Child of Eden is a bold experiment, one that succeeds in giving gamers an experience they are unlikely to have had before. There’s no doubt that you will love every moment in Eden.

Igor Kharin, CeX UK Contributor. Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo
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