Child of Eden, the spiritual successor to Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s much loved Rez, is something of a strange beast. Depending on how you approach it, Child of Eden can be interpreted as a mind altering audio-visual experience or as a standard, score attack, on-rails shooter. While it is essentially a mixture of both, your personal leaning toward either side of the spectrum will depend largely on whether you’re holding anything in your hands (no giggling at the back please).
With a controller in hand, Child of Eden is best played as a hardcore, if outrageously gorgeous, on-rails shooter. Although relatively basic in terms of core mechanics, Child of Eden is nonetheless a tight and rather accomplished arcade-style shooter, much in the vein of the Panzer Dragoons and Sin & Punishments of this world. With leaderboards to climb, health bars to watch and grades to be achieved, Child of Eden can certainly be played and enjoyed exclusively in that most hardcore of fashions. If however you find yourself standing in front of a Kinect sensor, well, that’s when Child of Eden becomes something quite different indeed.
Although lacking the accuracy of a controller and thus not suitable for realistic score, or even grade chasing, playing Child of Eden as a hands free experience stands as the finest example of Kinect gaming to date and a truly unforgettable experience in its own right. You also get the impression that this is probably how Mizaguchi-san saw Child of Eden at its inception – as more of an experience than a challenge. Using your right hand to grab onto enemies by naturally swaying your arm across the screen turns locking-on to enemies and targets into something of a dance-like experience, while flinging out your fingers to unleash your attack feels wholly natural and works amazingly well given the accuracy required to read finger movements. Normal, single shot attacks are then dealt with via your left arm, leaving you to use a combination of both attack styles to progress through the games six beautifully created worlds.
Well, I say attack, but that’s only half the story. While certain enemies do need to be defeated, creation is just as important to progression in Child of Eden as destruction. Born of the game’s thread bear but well implemented, dialogue free story, Child of Eden tasks the player with reassembling the memories of Lumi, the first human child born on a space station as she is reconstructed by a future generation.
By destroying the virus attacking Lumi and recreating her fractured memories of humanity by linking together chain shots on the metaphorical creatures and constructs that represent the wordless memories represented on screen, you essentially recreate the history of mankind via the rhythmic loop of destruction and creation…..or something like that anyway. Whatever the case may be, Child of Eden is a beautiful game that takes the theme of human evolution from Rez and applies it to the surrounding world.
Rather than the hard lines of Rez’s techno inspired world and its host of right angled enemies, Child of Eden is full of organic creatures and malleable, adaptable surroundings. Although inevitably less ‘videogamey’, Child of Eden’s visual design is every bit as memorable as Rez’s and in many ways stands as the more beautiful game.
Like Rez though, Child of Eden is as much journey of sound as it is of sight, and once again it doesn’t fail to impress. With each random shot seemingly finding a harmonious place amongst the game’s overriding audio track, Child of Eden continuously delivers a beautiful and wholly unique audio experience, one that is married perfectly to the games visual design to create an experience that, under the right conditions, can border on the transient.
As brilliant a coming together of audio and visual design as Child of Eden may be, many will inevitably be concerned at the games potential lack of longevity. While only six levels long, Child of Eden is a game that deserves to be revisited and mastered by all those who play it. The fact that repetition is forced thanks to progression only being permitted once a certain number of performance stars have been attained may be a questionable design choice but each of the six worlds are unquestionably worth experiencing multiple times.
With a controller in hand, Child of Eden is a tight, challenging and addictive on-rail shooter. Without, it’s an audio/visual experience in perfect harmony with physical interaction. It’s the finest example of what can be achieved with Kinect to date and an equally fantastic example of technology and artistry brought together to create something wholly unique within the entertainment industry.
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