Child of Eden one word review: Duuuuude.
If you’re at all familiar with the games of Tetsuya Mizuguchi, then you already know what Child of Eden and you’re probably pretty sure that you’re going to get it. It’s not really doing either game a disaservice to call this Rez 2, the only real difference being that where Rez primarily concerned itself with crude vectors and throbbing techno, Child of Eden plumps for upbeat pop an organic shapes.
The plot concerns a girl called Lumi, the first human to be born in space (she’s also the not-entirely-real lead singer of Mizuguchi’s band, Genki Rockets). Long after her death, scientists use her memories in combination with Eden, the unfortunately naff future version of the internet (and the AI at the centre of Rez – he’s a crafty one, that Mizuguchi) to recreate her entire personality within Eden. Something goes wrong, and the world starts to corrupt around her, which is where you come in – you have to blast away at the corrupting elements within the world to purify it and save Lumi.
Child of Eden is an on-rails shooter, exactly like Rez. You have a lock-on attack that allows you to paint up to eight targets at a time with homing projectiles, and a new attack – a free-firing purple beam that destroys incoming enemy attacks as well as certain enemies. This new attack means that the game is already slightly more tricky than Rez, or at least that little bit more strategic. With the pad, you switch between the two attacks, whereas with Kinect controls you control homing attacks with your right hand and non-homing with your left.
The Kinect controls are well-implemented, but far from perfect. You paint a lock-on with your hand, then thrust your arm or flick your wrist to send the attacks hurtling at your opponents. This element of the controls works well, but the real problem with the Kinect controls is that they reposition the camera in a far clumsier fashion than the pad. It’s very easy to totally overshoot the target you’re aiming for and be left completely oblivious as to where you’re looking. You can overcome this with practice, but it’s disorientating and ironically infuriating for a game that’s supposed to be tranquil. Kinect and Pad scores are kept separate, so if you want to rack up high scores on the pad and zen-out in your yoga trousers with Kinect controls, you can.
Graphically, Child of Eden is brilliant and diverse. Early levels are all about the organic shapes that you’ll have seen in the trailers and screenshots, but things become more varied and complex later on as the levels come to represent different areas of human experience. The Passion level, for example, turns out to be about technology and its role in humanity’s development, and it is genuinely shocking and fascinating after the very gentle introduction of the earlier stages. Like Rez before it, Child of Eden is designed as a synaesthetic experience; it almost succeeds. In the right mood, it would be easy to get lost in this game for hours. And no, that’s not a euphemism. Replays unlock collectables, of the usual art gallery, video and music unlocks, but also in-game creatures to populate the menu screens. It’s not going to keep you playing, but it’s a nice addition for those who will go back anyway.
Musical preference is always subjective, but the music in Child of Eden is not its strongest point. To put it mildly. The layered beats and rhythms that make up the initial music in each level are quite interesting, but the pop crescendos they build to are sickly enough to give you diabetes. Worse, they’re all Genki Rockets tracks, which fans of Mizuguchi or gaming in general will almost certainly have heard elsewhere – Lumines being the most likely example. Not only are their songs criminally cheerful, but they’ve been heard before. It would have been far more pleasant to get some new music for the game, even if it was still bubblegum pop. It wouldn’t matter if music wasn’t such an important part of Mizuguchi’s games, but it feels like a let down.
Still, some poor pop songs don’t stop Child of Eden being a minor triumph. It won’t appeal to those demand vast complexity in their games, but it is beautiful and interesting enough that anyone with the slightest twinge of interest should definitely pick it up.