Thursday, June 16, 2011

Review - Child of Eden


Developed by Q Entertainment and published by Ubisoft, Child of Eden is a first person shooter. But it's also a game unlike almost every other first person shooter out there. Dazzling visual and audio effects, brilliant level design, smooth controls, and a catchy technopop soundtrack form a solidarity with which Child of Eden rises to greatness.


If you haven't heard of Child of Eden, the game is essentially an on-the-rails first person shooter. The story is set in a distant yet near future, where space travel has been accomplished and the internet is referred to as "Eden." The first child to be born in space, Lumi, is saved into Eden's archives. Centuries later, scientists attempt to recreate Lumi from her record in Eden; to their dismay, Eden becomes corrupted (by futuristic spyware ads?). As the player, you are tasked with purifying Eden of this viral intrusion and saving the new Lumi from being destroyed.

Sounds weird? You bet. But the story succeeds not because the subject matter is unconventional, but because its implementation is unconventional as well. There is no epic narrative here, no real dialogue to speak of. The viral intrusion isn't represented by some all-powerful avatar whom you have to defeat. And yet somehow the game manages to capture your attention all the same. Lumi, who is also the face of the mysterious real life band Genki Rockets (whose music is featured prominently in the game), is captivating in her innocence and beauty. As you come upon the penultimate seconds of each mission, flashes of her face and figure as she sways gracefully to the music - freed from the viral infection - just seem to draw you in further.


Ultimately, the story is only a backdrop for the innovative gameplay. There are two modes of playing Child of Eden, one with the standard controller and one using Kinect. In both versions you are equipped with the same arsenal of weapons: a tracking missle launcher capable of destroy viral incursions with devastating accuracy, a purple shooter used to eliminate enemy projectiles and similarly colored enemies who are especially vulnerable to rapid fire, and a "Euphoria" attack, which is essentially a screen-clearing bomb attack.

Child of Eden is an on-the-rails game, meaning you move along a set and predefined pathway. Along the way, enemies and powerups will spiral around you, and it's your job to eliminate and/or capture as many of these infections as possible. As you destroy them, you rack up points for efficiency and thoroughness. The Tracking missile is the most effective weapon to use against most enemies, and if you time your attacks along with the soundtrack, you'll earn increasingly rewarding bonuses.

Some situations will require you to use your purple repeater gun, keeping the levels from becoming too monotonous. Enemies also come in dozens of different varieties, each with their own behaviors, strengths and weaknesses - some even react differently to your two main weapons in a visual way. Clearing through wave upon wave of these oddly-designed (cybernetic worms, jellyfish, whales, and phoenixes all need to be purged) viruses is fun to do and watch. Finally, your Euphoria attack can save you from being overwhelmed, but be aware that you must collect Euphoria powerups before you can use them in battle.

You can't discuss Child of Eden without its compatability with Kinect. While using the controller is slightly more fluid and precise, there's no denying just how enjoyable it is to blast through the deluge of enemies using Kinect's motion controls. Using Kinect, your right hand becomes your homing missiles, requiring you to flick your hand forward after you've locked onto your targets. Your left hand becomes your purple machine gun. Raising both hands above your head activates Euphoria. Playing Child of Eden with Kinect is an infinitely more rewarding experience; the motion controls are smooth and the movement really brings you into the action. You feel powerful, as if your hands are literally shaping the world around you. The camera can occasionally be a little jittery, but this is a minor annoyance at worst.

Graphics & Sound:

The game succeeds on a technical and artistic level as well. The graphics in the game are vibrant, and the game plays smoothly, despite the smorgasbord of cybernetic invaders that swirl through your entire screen. The backgrounds feel living, the enemies animate fluidly and sometimes shiny lights are really just all a game developer needs to keep your attention. The game also achieves on an artistic level as well, managing to capture a mix of cybernetic, matrix-code feel with an organic twist. It's almost like you're floating in a techno dream that you can't tear yourself away from, even if you wanted to.

I've already mentioned the catchy tunes that play in the background as you blast your way through the game, and how you earn bonuses if you time your attacks to synch with the rhythm of the beat. On screen flashes of "Good!" and "Perfect!" accompany your attacks when you pull them off successfully, and these are further joined by musical chimes, notes, even lyrical melodies that meld seamlessly into the soundtrack. When you get into a good groove, your attacks harmonize with the soundtrack into explosions of music that only further highlight Child of Eden's artistic vision.

Other Notes:

The one complaint I have is that the game can be over too quickly. You unlock new levels by earning stars from each stage, but in total (at the moment) there are only five levels. These could easily and conceivably be completed in an hour, for the particularly rhythmic and shooter-oriented gamers. There is a plethora of unlockables, including concept art, videos, and collectible items for Lumi's Garden (which is essentially the title screen). Still, at the end of the day I wish there were more actual levels of gameplay to be had. Here's hoping that Ubisoft and Q Entertainment might see fit to release some DLC.

Final Thoughts:

Anybody can enjoy Child of Eden, but for those who see videogames as more than just mindless entertainment, I can not recommend it enough. Stunning visual and artistic design unite with musical and auditory splendor to create a game that is worthy of being called art.

Recommended For:
+ Fans of First person shooters
+ Fans of games with extraordinary style and vision
+ Anybody with a Kinect and $50 to spare for the game.

Not recommended For:
- People with Epilepsy. Like, seriously.
- People without a Kinect. The game might be better with a Kinect, but don't buy a kinect just for this game. With only 5 levels to blast your way through, it'll be a short-lived high for spending the $149.99 for.

Child of Eden is currently available on XBOX360. A PS3 version is due out September this year (presumably with Move support). Purchase it through Amazon or find it at your local video game retailer.


A dedicated reader :) said...

Do you think the DLC you were referencing will allow you to remove Lumi's clothes and give us the stunning visuals of her nekkid?

pigster said...

maybe you can incorporate some mutli player doing the mass-effecting to the dedicated reader's suggestion?