PixelJunk Eden Preview
Do you know what an “organic platformer” is? Well, neither did we, until we had a chance to sit down and do the research on Q Games’ PixelJunk Eden. It's the third installment in the series (the first two were PixelJunk Monsters and PixelJunk Racers), and most sources will label it as a promising puzzle title thanks to an extraordinary level of originality. It is scheduled to arrive on the PlayStation Store some time later this year as a downloadable title, and we’ve already been impressed with several of the games we’ve snagged from the Network; titles like Super Stardust HD and flOw have been both solid and even addictive. We have high hopes for PixelJunk Eden, primarily because we have high expectations for just about anything that is this unique. Even if you’ve played some of the fresh puzzle titles on the PSP in the past few months (like Patapon, for example), you’ve still never seen anything like this!
At first glance, this is a title that may appeal to fans of the popular Harvest Moon franchise, which always has you planting, cultivating and, of course, harvesting. But there's a bit more action in this one. In PixelJunk Eden, you will take control of strange yet likeable little creatures known as Grimps. The Grimps will work hard on your very own “home garden,” which is the central location for the entire game and where you can explore ten different individual gardens. Within each distinct garden, your goal will be the same: you must attempt to gather up as many glowing Spectra as you can, which assist your lovely vegetation in the growing process. We’re not entirely sure how this happens, but we sense a little something magical about that Spectra… Anyway, you will move the Grimps through a series of gorgeous 2D environments, and it’s not just a simple matter of running around hording Spectra right off the bat. It will require some work to nab the life-giving orbs, and that means you’ll have to grow some stuff first. You gotta earn your keep, would-be expert gardener!
See, Grimps can toss a silk thread kinda like an insect, and you need to aim that silk at the Pollen Prowlers in order to obtain the necessary pollen for your plants to grow. …no, we didn’t just make that up. Once you have acquired a certain amount of pollen, your Grimp will automatically head to the nearest seed that begs for sustenance, and proceed to inject the pollen. The key revolves around your ability to nail those Prowlers, catch the pollen they release, and distribute it amongst the variety of plants and flowers in your garden. When the seed is full of pollen, it will burst into a sprout and then continue to grow. Doing this will give you something new to climb on, which in turn will allow you to reach new heights and areas of your garden; the more you can reach, the more you can grow. We’re still a little confused about the Spectra, though; if the Pollen is used to grow, how does the Spectra help? Does it let plants grow faster? Does it work for special plants? There must be a reason for being so gung-ho about collecting Spectra, and we assume there’s a somewhat logical explanation.
As for the control, we turn to IGN’s recent hands-on with PixelJunk Eden, and we learn it may take some time to familiarize yourself with Grimp movement. The Grimp will attach itself to any “grab-able surface,” and then you aim by holding down one of the face buttons, then double-tap another face button to jump in that direction. If you wish, you can tap the button only once, and the Grimp will jump with a piece of silk attached to the plant behind him to act as a safety line, presumably if you miss. Obviously, this means it will take timing and practice to jump and swing your way through the garden, and even more timing and patience to bring down those Pollen Prowlers. Perhaps this may sound complicated for what many would consider to be a simple little downloadable title, but we see this as a challenge; an example of depth and ingenuity not often seen in any game, be it downloadable or not. Sure, it’ll take some getting used to, but it’ll probably be worth it.
Oddly enough, the game supports up to three players (not the standard 2 or 4), but any sort of multiplayer option is always good news. PixelJunk Eden should be ready to go soon, and we hope to hear more about it at this year’s E3, which is right around the corner. This is one curious concept, and it might be just as engrossing and addictive as any puzzler out there, provided the controls are solid and the experience doeesn’t grow tiresome. We also expect to hear about a price tag at some point, and when we have the full release details, we’ll fill you in.
7/3/2008 Ben Dutka