Initially developed for the XBox 360 and the Kinect, Child of Eden is a visually stunning, movement based point and shooter which banks far more on its impressive visuals than on actual gameplay, but it is arresting enough to keep the attention for a while at least.
The plotline boils down quite simply considering how strung-out the experience of playing is: we are first introduced to the first human born in space, called Lumi, and then transported to a time after her death, where Project Lumi is seeking to reproduce a human personality digitally in Eden, the same artificial intelligence that controlled supernetwork “K-Project” in follow-up Rez (this is a prequel). basically, the AI has been infiltrated with viruses, and it’s your job to fight them off.
But that isn’t even half of the story.
The plot is merely a frame for the gameplay, so those last ten or so words of the synopsis are the only ones that really matter. The player is met with a psychedelic sensory experience – a shooter on rails that looks like little else that has been released to a mass market, and which seems to revel in the fact that it ignores the traditional restrictions of convention. In a marketplace where commentators continuously lament the fact that no games are innovative or brave, Child of Eden is a massive breath of fresh air.
Now, I don’t remember dropping acid at any point between receiving this game and putting it into my PS3. But I know for a fact it must have happened given what happened after the loading pages. That feeling has a lot to do with the presence of near legendary video game designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi and the Q Entertainment team, who know very well how to put together some astonishing aesthetics along with a gameplaying experience that will never really trouble established gamers, but has enough to immerse for its short game time.
The kinetic, brightly coloured rails are combined with a fantastic late Balearic style synth soundtrack which wouldn’t be out of place playing over the trendiest European night-clubs. That soundtrack is provided by Genki Rockets, a band that don’t really exist, and include Mizuguchi and Lumi, as well as Kenji Tamai – they’re a digital creation, in yet another moment of wierdness/trend-bucking.
What we have here is sort of a Wii or Kinect game that’s made dirty, psychedelic love to Wipeout. Staring at it for too long will probably lead to permanent grey matter damage, which is perfectly acceptable because there is no longevity in the gameplay experience. It takes very little time to reach the end, and something so repetitive would simply not work as an extended endeavour anyway.
I have to say, having played this already on the Kinect a while ago, I feel the Kinect is the more natural method of play, because the Move controller, and traditional analogue both feel limited in their own ways. Neither is responsive enough to make the experience as immersive as it is clearly designed to be, though the controller actually shades it over Move when you’re pressed to make a choice.
On purely its own terms, Child of Eden is a 10/10 experience: but those terms don’t transfer across to many other games, so it’s difficult to judge the game by those conventional parameters, and when you do, the game begins to fall down. As I said, it is too short, and too repetitive to warrant coming back for much more than the awe-inspiring visuals, and the gameplay is too limited to inspire any substantial replay factor.
But as an experiment, and an exercise in aesthetics, Child of Eden is as dazzling an experience as can be expected from console play, and if you value novelty, and engagement on an unconventional, purely sensory level, then its a damn fine answer. It might be to a question that few thought to answer, but still, a damn fine answer.