I was asked the other day to describe Child of Eden to someone that hasnt played it yet and naturally the first thing I asked was if they had played Rez (or Rez HD) but they hadnt. This kind of left me stumped at how to describe the uniqueness that is Child of Eden (and Rez for that matter) as there truly is no other game like it in its own specific genre.
First off, Ill be referencing Rez quite a lot in this review as Child of Eden is its spiritual successor without actually being Rez 2. Tetsuya Mizuguchi (known as Miz for short) is the series creator and is also the mastermind behind other games like Lumines and Space Channel 5 (and Rez obviously). His games are very unique and try to blend in gameplay along with rhythm and music.
If youve not played Rez or made sense of videos for Child of Eden Ill do my best to describe it. In essence its a first person shooter (no guns, just a reticule) that is on rails (so no movement from a character is necessary) that looks like it takes place in the mind of someone tripping through a psychedelic kaleidoscope. The shooting mechanics is coupled alongside unique visuals and synthesized techno-ish music thats really more of an experience than a game. Because of the inclusion of Kinect controls your Kinect will no longer just be a Dance Central machine any longer thanks to Mizs vision and superb control schemes.
Technically there is a story to Child of Eden but its more of an interpretation more than a plot line you follow. Shortly in the future the first human born is space on the International Space Station and is named Lumi. She lives her whole life in space and desires to experience Earth and all of its surroundings and her feelings are expressed through songs and messages sent to Earth. After she passes her digital imprint (along with the complete human history and all memories) has been saved on the next evolution of the Internet now called Eden. Your task playing Child of Eden is to stop unknown viruss attacking Eden thus saving it and all of Lumi and humankinds past for the rest of the universe to find and experience. As you complete stages youre actually purifying the archives of Eden as you attempt to awaken Lumi from her slumber. Yes, on paper this makes no sense, and technically in-game it doesnt really either, but again, youre playing Child of Eden for the experience and everything is open to interpretation. Youll simply get lost in the amazing visuals and trance music.
As you purify enemies and defeat them theyll produce a melodic sound that seems to genuinely fit in seamlessly with the archives soundtrack. As soon as you begin the game youre going to be completely lost at what to do (and even why), even if youre a Rez veteran itll take some getting used to (as you now have a secondary shot as well). Just like Rez, youll need to shoot the enemies and objects on the screen which if done with proper timing, will sound like its simply part of the song.
You main weapon, called the Octo-lock is essentially the same weapon you used in Rez. It allows you to lock onto eight targets at once before firing which youll next extra points if done in sync with the background music. New is a secondary weapon that shoots tracers and is weaker than your main weapon but it shoots rapidly and can destroy incoming projectiles shot by enemies (and is needed to take down specific enemies). This means youll be switching between your two firing modes quite often to destroy objects on screen and to survive incoming attacks.
Some levels are very organic feeling with jellyfish, whales and more while others will have a distinct techno hard edge polygon feel to them. Youll face off against a boss at the end of each archive which will test your balance of offence with Octo-lock and defense with the tracers from all the incoming projectiles. Youll usually have a few moments of repeated Octo-locks to try and boost your score and to keep with the beat of the song.
Youre encouraged to play through the separate archives multiple times with many unlockables like gorgeous art pieces, videos and even separate audio and visual filters that become unlocked after saving Lumi. Youll also unlock an extremely challenging survival mode thats all based around your highest score and staying alive. Youll also unlock Hard Mode once you complete the game that makes enemies do double damage and is for those that are a glutton for punishment.
Being the Rez fan that I am, I was honestly a little skeptical at how good the Kinect controls would suit a game like this that requires quick reflexes and a good eye all while keeping a beat. After a single try I was hooked and actually preferred it to the regular controller scheme. Somehow Child of Eden is meant to be played with motion controls. Your Octo-lock is bound to your right hand and flows across the screen seamlessly, launching your eight lock-ons when you thrust your palm towards the screen. Your left hand controls your Tracer Gun which youll need more frequently the further into the archives you delve. At first it feels a little awkward but after one level you really stop thinking about it and it all becomes natural as you sway your arms around almost as if youre conducting the action happening on the screen. To use bombs you lift both hands in the air as if you are wiping the screen of any enemies and there are even other controls schemes that can have you clapping to switch weapons if you prefer, though I preferred the default scheme.
I really enjoyed Child of Eden when I started out playing with the controller but once I started playing with Kinect it was a whole new experience. The subtle gestures you make with your hand are easily recognized and gameplay feels much smoother and more like an experience that will have you tapping your foot as you play trying to go for those bonus points by releasing your missiles to the beat.
Just like in Rez HD, you are able to set any or all of your controllers to vibrate for anyone else that wants to join in. Its almost a running joke with the series as Rez had an extra peripheral that was simply to vibrate strongly to the games music for your significant other to have in their lap as you played.
While Child of Eden is a short adventure with only 5 main stages that youll complete the first time in less than two hours, the replayability comes with collecting unlockables and trying to beat your friends on the leaderboard (which I give props to Miz for separating the controller and Kinect leaderboards). Sadly when its over youll want more and I doubt there will be DLC song add-ons but one can hope. Changing the visual or audio filters sets the difficulty to a whole new level and will make the purple objects you need to shoot with Tracers near invisible for those that love a challenge.
Once you get the hang of the fluid controls it almost feels as youre orchestrating some visual sensory overload that will have anyone not familiar with the game completely glued to the screen trying to decipher what youre actually doing. If you buy Child of Eden (and I highly suggest doing so) please ensure you have a Kinect sensor to truly experience everything the game has to offer. For the first time you can actually believe the front of the game box where it says Better with Kinect.
Suggestions: Please make DLC song to further the experience!