|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Dev: Q Entertainment|
|Release: Q1 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by James Trujillo
What do the words "hope and happiness" mean to you? For some it might be an optimistic look towards the future, and to others it could be as simple as looking at the world through the eyes of a child. Well, this is the theme within Tetsuya Mizuguchi's newest mind-melting endeavor, and his definition is probably something that not many have considered. At least that's the impression after seeing Child of Eden in action. This multi-sensory experience is as unique as it is hard to put into words. It's something you need to experience first-hand to fully grasp, but fans of Mizuguchi's previous work (Rez, Lumines, etc.) will understand a bit of what I mean.
Although the game can use a standard controller for gameplay, the main feature is its compatibility with the Xbox 360's Kinect. It's basically an on-rails first person shooter, but involves using hand gestures to blast your way through its extravagant journey. The demonstration we saw showed off simple motions, like a quick toss of the hand to shoot out projectiles and handclaps to change weapons. There also appeared to be some sort of auto-lock in place that removed the complexity of aiming. This left you free to unleash rapid-fire shots or larger cannon bursts, depending on the circumstances. What exactly it is that you're shooting at is a whole other story.
Mizuguchi explained that the futuristic plot behind Child of Eden is a major part of his game. He went on to say that Eden is a "network archive system," or what we might think of as the Internet, which is the archive of all human memories. In this world, a mission was underway to recreate a human personality inside of Eden called Project Lumi, but it was interrupted when an unknown virus invaded the network. The player's goal in the game is to cleanse the system of the virus and restore the archive so the project can be completed. On the surface Child of Eden might look like a psychedelic trip, but Mizuguchi assured us that it all has a deep meaning.
The base concepts for the game all revolve around music, shapes, and colors to keep the players senses stimulated. The soundtrack feels similar to something you may hear at a dance club, along with many other audio cues resulting from a player's interaction. The visuals are a mish-mash of whirling forms of color and shapes torn straight from the pages of a geometry book. It's quite incredible to watch, much less experience on your own, and players may feel like they're conducting an orchestra of someone's auditory and visual hallucination.
Child of Eden, along with Mizuguchi's previous sensory experiment, Rez, is part of his lifelong ambition to capture the true feeling of Synesthesia. It's a neurological condition in which the five senses of perception can become muddled in an involuntary way. There are many different types of Synesthesia, but some people with this condition can experience a visualization of colors and shapes along with sounds. For example, when hearing dogs barking or glass breaking, they describe it as being much like a small display of abstract fireworks that can range in visual intensity. There are even some rare cases of people who unconsciously evoke taste sensations when hearing words or word sounds.
There are over sixty types of the condition that have been documented, and the majority of people who have it don't describe their experiences in a negative way, but rather the opposite. In fact, many consider it to be a gift. If there is anything to deduce from encountering Child of Eden it is, again, the developer's wide-eyed theme of hope and happiness.
At first sight of this bizarre creation, it was hard to get past my skepticism. Looks can sometimes be deceiving, and once I understood what was underneath the surface, I became thoroughly intrigued. It's very easy, as well as foolish, to dismiss something when you know so little about it. Fortunately, a concept of originality usually trumps ignorance in the end.
Child of Eden is slated to launch Kinect-capable, but it remains to be seen whether it will be Move compatible for its PlayStation 3 counterpart. Ubisoft, the game's publisher, has said they are "considering Move compatibility, but at this time Child of Eden works with the standard controller." They have yet to comment any further. The game has a tentative release window of Q1 2011, so we hope that will give you enough time to wrap your head around this wonderfully ambitious adventure.
CCC Freelance Writer