Child of Eden Review
Tetsuya Mizuguchi is one of those industry visionaries who loves to break boundaries and give gamers fresh, innovative experiences. Some gamers may remember Rez, the cult classic that really resonated with intrigued fans. …those who are familiar know why I used the adjective “resonated,” by the way. And now, Mizuguchi combines great music, gorgeous high-tech visuals, and multiple control options in Child of Eden, one of the most unique and visually engaging titles of the generation. Despite a few small issues, this one is worth trying.
It’s almost worth the cost of admission just to see it. We’re not talking about photorealistic human faces, meticulously designed simulated worlds, or huge, sweeping landscapes. Besides the real actress who plays Lumi, the game is comprised of stunning visuals that pulsate, flow, and shine. It’s a little difficult to describe so it’s probably best to check a gameplay video, like the one below. My only complaint is that visibility can be a problem; finding all bullets fired in your direction is a frustrating chore at times. If you play with the stereoscopic 3D enabled, you can actually see everything better, but it can still be tough to see targets. Even so…it’s pretty.
As you might expect from Mizuguchi, the music is stellar. The sound effects are decent, too, but they pale in comparison to the inspired soundtack, which not only complements the gameplay, it becomes part of the gameplay. More on that in a minute but for now, let’s just say gamers will be impressed by the futuristic, sweeping score that gives the game life. If you can wrap your head around the rhythm aspect of the experience (which takes some practice), you’ll come to realize that without the music, Child of Eden becomes a generic on-rails shooter.
And yes, that genre description is technically accurate, although the game feels like so much more. If you want to break it down and simply summarize, you could say we just control an aiming reticule via standard controller or PlayStation Move. You fire at various targets, utilize a few separate firing commands, and attempt to clear infected aspects of Eden. See, “Eden” is the Internet in the 23rd century, where all human records are kept in archives and are accessible anywhere in space. But when they try to bring back Lumi, the “Child,” she finds her “garden” infected.
The more spaces you clear, the more her garden grows and becomes the idyllic site of knowledge and peace. Unsurprisingly, the story isn’t a huge part of the game and as I said, explaining the gameplay is quick and easy. But there’s a lot more beneath the surface, and it starts with the different controls. With the DualShock, you simply move the reticule around with the left analog; holding and releasing X fires a concentrated laser shot, the Square (or R2) button fires a Tracer, and you can unleash Euphoria with Circle. The latter is a special skill that eliminates all enemies and bullets on the screen.
But with Move, things change a little. Firing the lock-on laser requires you to aim at your targets with the wand and when they’re all selected (up to 8 can be targeted at once), you flick your wrist to fire. Toss in 3D, and when you “Dive” into a section that requires cleansing, it really feels like you’re diving; it’s aptly named for 3D. Also, if you can time your shots with the music, you get point bonuses, which add even more flair to an already invigorating experience. You’ll know if you timed it well when you see “Good” or “Perfect” pop up on the screen.
You may remember when they first unveiled this game at last year’s E3; Mizuguchi and his white gloves really turned a lot of heads. That being said, while it’s clear that such a game might be best played with Microsoft’s Kinect (as the creator did on stage), playing with either the standard controller or Move doesn’t necessarily detract from the gameplay. I haven’t played it for Kinect, but I can imagine, and I’d have to say it’s one game I would probably have to try. It might be easier to get in synch with the music beats, too, but I can’t say for certain.
That’s one of the few flaws in the game: the fact that timing your laser shots with the music can prove difficult, especially when you’re low on health and just trying to survive. It’s a nice feature but it’s a little tough to embrace. Secondly, while it will cost you $20 less than a typical new game (MSRP is $39.99), this experience is over a little too quickly, and there’s no multiplayer to bolster the longevity. Your only incentive to replay levels is to get a higher purification rate and a better score. Thirdly and lastly, I maintain that visibility is an issue without 3D enabled. Most of the time, I was hit by bullets I never saw.
In that way, I think the gameplay could’ve been a little more focused. You sort of have to wander around with the reticule too often to ensure there’s no pink ammo flying at you. But beyond that, this is an innovative, smile-inducing product that assaults the senses and keeps us playing. The presentation is ultra-slick, the music is excellent, the way that music enhances the gameplay is fresh and intriguing, the concept is great, and the execution is solid. It can be iffy when calibrating Move, though; it might take a few tries to get it just right.
Child of Eden is an interesting game. …that may be the understatement of the year. If you’re willing to spend the cash on a relatively short adventure, you’ll experience something totally energizing.
The Good: Stunning visual display. Fantastic music selection. Ultra-slick presentation. Rhythm element elevates immersion. Multiple control options and 3D let you play different ways. Involving and satisfying.
The Bad: Visibility can suffer, especially without 3D. Move controls have to be perfectly calibrated. Short campaign and no multiplayer.
The Ugly: “Move is fine…I just keep thinking Kinect would be best.”
9/26/2011 Ben Dutka