It’s So Beautiful
Do you have any idea how beautiful the world is? If not, then you aren’t opening your mind, man. You need to broaden your horizons, expand your spiritual world. Don’t worry. I got something that will send you on a two-hour trip, and after you come down you’ll feel like all is right with your life. It’s called Child of Eden for the Xbox 360, and it’s the good stuff.
Seriously, this game is so trippy I’m flashing back to all the sketchy stuff I did in college—like when I played Rez for twenty-four hours straight. (Wait, what were you thinking I did in college?) The comparison to Rez is actually quite appropriate, because Child of Eden is Rez’s spiritual sequel (and some theorize it’s an actual sequel, although the fact that it is published by a different company complicates that theory). It’s made by the same designer, Tetsuya Mizuguchi, and it provides the same psychedelic experience that Rez did, minus the Trance Vibrator.
For the uninitiated, Rez and its successor Child of Eden are both on-rails shooters that take you through abstract multi-colored landscapes while ambient music plays in the background. Every bullet you fire creates a new sound that is appropriate to the music you are listening to. Doing well raises the music to a wonderful symphony of sounds and beats and instruments, while doing poorly reduces the music to nothing more than a drum line. As you fire at your “enemies” (I’ll explain why I put that in quotes later) the landscape around you changes, as fractal patterns open up before your eyes. It’s supposed to be an experience that speaks to all of your senses. You see the colors, hear the music, and feel the vibration of your controller or the movement of your limbs through Kinect controls. Heck, all that’s left is to add smell-and-taste-o-vision to the mix.
Child of Eden has a plot that is as trippy as its gameplay. It’s the future, and we are attempting to recreate human intelligence in the digital world—in space! Project Lumi, as it is called, is mere steps away from recreating the first human personality born in space (Lumi) inside a massive computer network called Eden. Suddenly, Eden is hacked and a virus attack corrupts Lumi’s data. (Personally, I blame Anonymous.) It’s up to you to traverse Eden’s digital space and “purify” all the corrupted data in order to save Lumi.
So there aren’t really “enemies” in Child of Eden as much as there is corrupted data that you have to heal. Sure, this corrupted data still tries to kill you, and you still shoot at it, but you are shooting healing lasers which cause strange viral creatures to blossom into flowers and butterflies. In gameplay terms it’s all the same thing, but in concept it’s far more peaceful.
In terms of mechanics, the game is actually very simple. You have a health bar, which is represented by a five petal flower at the bottom right of the screen, and a stock of bombs, or “euphoria” in this case, which purify everything on the screen at once. You gain more health and euphoria by doing well in the game and shooting what are essentially item pick-ups as you go through the stages.
You only have two weapons: a homing laser that can lock on to up to eight targets at once before releasing a volley of laser blasts, or a rapid fire laser which continuously shoots wherever your reticle is pointed. Your lock-on weapon is the weapon you will be using throughout most of the game. Not only does it do more damage and hit more reliably, but locking on to eight enemies at once and releasing your lasers to the beat of the music gives you massive point bonuses. Unfortunately, your homing lasers can’t hit enemy attacks, nor can they hit enemies that flash purple. So to handle these, you must switch to the rapid-fire weapon in order to intercept enemy shot and take out swarms of purple viruses.
With the controller, this is all handled with the analog stick and buttons, and the music thumps back to a beat that is translated to you through the controller’s vibration. Oddly enough, this is the inferior way to play Child of Eden. Though the vibration feedback is kind of cool, the reticle is just not fast enough for the multiple waves of enemies that come at you in the game’s later levels. For a truly immersive experience, hook up your Kinect.
When using motion controls, one hand controls your homing laser while the other controls your rapid laser. Raising both hands above your head activates euphoria, and while the game doesn’t require you shout “Wheeee!” every time you do it, I highly recommend it. The targeting reticle tracks your hands perfectly, and switching between both weapons is as natural as switching hands. As a result, your reactions are much quicker when playing with the Kinect, and even though you aren’t getting vibration feedback, you certainly feel more like you are a part of the game.
The fact is, you aren’t playing Child of Eden for its gameplay. You are playing its emotional impact and sensory overload. The feelings this game evokes are just indescribable. The levels always start in these dark corrupted places, but as you continue on, you can see the skies open up and stars shine down on you. You’ll see flowers bloom and planets form. Heck, one boss battle could only be described as a microcosm of the evolutionary ladder in space. If you are a games-as-art snob like me, this game will have you crying with joy.
Unfortunately, Child of Eden is not without its flaws. For one, there are no checkpoints in the game. Die one hit before a boss is ready to bite it, and you’ll have to start the level all over again. For two, there is no multiplayer. Call me crazy, but tripping out with a friend is always more fun. For three, the entire experience is very short. There are only five levels, and if you’re good, you can beat the whole thing in an hour or two. The game has plenty of things to unlock, like new difficulties, new graphics options, a hidden sixth challenge level, concept art, and music videos, but none of this actually goes very far toward increasing the game’s replay value. What does increase replay value is the inclusion of online leaderboards, but that only works for the higher-score junkies out there.
Oh, and one more thing. You should take the seizure warning at the beginning of the game seriously. I personally don’t have a history of seizures, but I seriously needed to avert my eyes at points just because there was so much movement on screen.
Child of Eden is so much fun to play. It’s less of a game and more of a sensory experience that just evokes this feeling of happiness and contentment. It’s something I think everyone should take part in at least once. It’s just so depressingly short for a full-priced game. Don’t get me wrong though, Child of Eden is one of the only two hours games I would ever consider paying full price for. That’s saying a lot.
So what do you think now, man? Did I blow your mind?
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 5.0 Graphics
As a visual experience, Child of Eden is second to none. Without the stunning psychedelic visuals, it would be half the game it is. 3.9 Control
The controls aren’t bad, they are just simple. You don’t have a whole lot of options, so the gameplay gets dry without the graphics and music to back it up. 5.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
As with the graphics, Child of Eden just couldn’t exist without its amazing music. It’s the two together that really craft the amazing synesthetic experience that Child of Eden is. 3.5 Play Value
No matter what way you look at it, the game is two hours long. It’s an amazing two hours, but it’s still just two hours. 4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best