Reviewed: July 1, 2011
Released: June 14, 2011
The first time I saw Child of Eden was at the 2010 Ubisoft press event at E3. This was before the Kinect had shipped or even before I had a chance to play Kinect later that week at the show, so the whole game looked a bit “weird”. The game slipped off my radar almost entirely after that until a few weeks prior to its release. With the promise of an amazing sensory assault and some of the best Kinect interaction since Dance Central, my enthusiasm was renewed. |
Child of Eden is the next-gen sequel to Rez, and yes, I know that Rez is also on the 360, but this is truly a generational leap in gameplay, graphics, and technology. If I had to describe Child of Eden in one phrase it would be, “A Jedi Knight in the TRON universe”. With neon-glowing, futuristic cyber graphics being vanquished by a supple flick of the wrist (or a Force Push move), playing with the Kinect turns your body into a powerful weapon intent on cleansing the digital universe of some nasty virus that threatens all of humanity, or at least some hot chick in a white flowing gown. I suppose there is a story here but it’s not important. Bring on the flowers and the giant space whale...
Child of Eden couldn’t be simpler to play, at least in theory. You’re flying through a flashy digital database zapping various hostile elements. Sometimes they might fight back by launching purple stuff at you. Purple is the enemy. If you see purple shoot it, but you can only shoot it with your purple ammo. Confused yet? You only have two weapons in Child of Eden; your main weapon, which locks onto all targets that aren’t purple and your secondary rapid-fire weapon that must be manually aimed. This weapon does far less damage than the lock-on weapon, but it is the only thing that can destroy purple targets.
You can play the game using either of two Kinect motion input modes or a standard controller; a nice fallback when the game gets insanely hard around level three, or after you throw out your shoulder, elbow, or wrist from overly aggressive gameplay. By default, you fire your lock-on gun by aiming your right hand at the screen. This moves the camera and allows you to “paint” up to eight targets, then a flick of the wrist or a “talk to the hand” motion fires and destroys those targets.
From time to time you will have purple targets or incoming purple projectiles. You must now switch to the left hand (default controls) or clap your hands to switch weapons and continue firing with your right. The clapping seemed to work a bit better since the act of switching hands often made the camera go crazy and the Kinect will lose tracking of your hands when they pass in front of your body. Once you have the rapid-fire purple gun armed you can unleash a stream of purple digital death. Purple shots will eventually kill normal targets but is best reserved for the purple ones. A special HUD will indicate the incoming direction of purple projectiles, so you can aim in their direction.
It’s obvious the designers want you to play, or at least experience Child of Eden with the Kinect, and there is a lot of fun and a surprising amount of physical exertion in doing so, but eventually most of us will revert to a controller. Interestingly enough, the game changes when you do this. First, your progress is tracked separately based on control mode, so if you get to level four using Kinect and realize you need to switch to the gamepad; you’ll have to start from the beginning. This is mostly due to the varied difficulty. While it may be easier to control, aim and shoot using the gamepad, the overall difficulty of the game increases significantly when you do, mostly in the speed of the purple projectiles. The game is more forgiving, though no less demanding, when playing with Kinect. When using a controller Child of Eden becomes a near clone of Rez. Press and hold to lock your targets, release to fire, etc.
Gameplay is fast and frantic with a smooth panning camera that twists and turns through a wild rollercoaster ride of neon special effects that makes Space Mountain look like a kiddie ride. Killing enemies will cause them to vanish, sometimes leaving behind health and Euphoria power-ups. Shoot a blue health sphere to restore your 5-petal flower health meter or collect a Euphoria orb then use it to smart-bomb the screen of all enemies by raising both hands above your head.
Child of Eden is more than a mindless shooter. There is some actual strategy lurking beyond this assault on your senses. A clever system of multipliers and shot bonuses are at work encouraging you to not only lock onto a full eight targets at once, but also fire your weapon to the beat of the raging techno-trance music that is playing in the background. Much like the game Lumines, your weapons' impact and the destruction of enemies all become their own distinctive electronic instruments; digital samples in a multi-media DJ extravaganza, ensuring that no two game sessions will ever sound alike. You actually help create the music as you play the game.
My only complaint with Child of Eden is that I never wanted the experience to end, but with only a handful of levels, each lasting 10-15 minutes; most gamers can finish the game in a single sitting. But there is plenty to keep you coming back. In addition to tracking scores and completion percentage for each stage, you also have harder skill levels and the Feel Eden mode, a god mode where you simply enjoy the ride without the anxiety of dying. You can unlock special sound and visual filters to mix up the game experience and even check out a Beatbox mode where you pick the sound effects. And you can always explore Lumi’s garden to see all those unlockable rewards you’ve been earning and see how the game plays with your own music.
Child of Eden is more of an experience than a game. I was reminded often of the PS3 game, Flower, where you fly around using the SIXAXIS motion controls. There is no real story, mission, or objective beyond simply surviving, and cleaning up as much of the digital infection as possible. The level of challenge and degree of difficulty ramps up smoothly over the course of the game, and all passage of time will slip by, as you become immersed and even hypnotized by the dazzling graphics and stunning music in Child of Eden; one of the most original games I’ve ever played on the Xbox 360, with or without the Kinect.