Hiding in the Garden of Eden
It seems like Q-Games is determined to keep us close to our PS3s. PixelJunk Racers wasn’t a super hit, but PixelJunk Monsters was highly successful, and PixelJunk Eden is just plain fun and addictive. In fact, some of us may have problems for a while going out and doing other activities without thinking of this newly-discovered Eden. – Come on! Don’t be a grimp ! Let’s go play some PJ Eden! – No, seriously. We can’t miss that football game. – But…just one more garden, please!
So, what’s this game all about? That’s an easy question. You control a “grimp.” A grimp is a little bug who lives in Eden and is in search of the lost Spectra, which are scattered throughout the levels. The gardens are not very dangerous to start, but as you collect pollen and create new plants with it, you’ll reach new heights and eventually enemies. When you jump towards plants and flowers, you’ll stick to them. By tapping X, your little grimp will start swinging from a thin silk thread. This allows you to gather the pollen within reach without getting off the plant. You have to be careful and not spin for too long though, or the silk will wear out and break, launching you into oblivion (or a plant below you, if you’re lucky). When standing on a surface, whether it’s the ground, a plant, rock, etc., you can double tap X to jump away. The trick is to aim correctly so you land on the next surface.
Pollinating is not the goal though. You have to create enough plants to reach the lost Spectra. Each garden will have one to five hidden Spectra you’ll have to find. Your little fellow will glow when swinging in the direction of the Spectra, which is very helpful when you want to know where to go next. There’s also a time bar at the bottom of the screen. If you don’t collect all the Spectra before time is up, you’ll fail. Luckily, you can also gather little drops called crystals that will fill up your time gauge. This means you could take as much as half hour to beat a level (or even longer). Some of you may think the game’s too long and repetitive, but the truth is, it’s actually very fun and extremely addictive.
Not every aspect of this game is flawless though. The controls are smooth for the most part, but it’s tough to get used to tapping in order to swing and double-tapping to jump. Especially at the beginning, you will accidentally launch yourself into the abyss. However, once you get the hang of it, you should be able to handle it like a pro. You’ll swing back and forth and then reel in with the shoulder button when it’s convenient. The only thing I was missing is some sort of grapple option that would let you launch the silk strand to cling to difficult to reach surfaces. Maybe it could have been a power-up.
Another issue that could have been worked out is falling all the way to the bottom after you’ve managed to reach high levels. If you don’t happen to come across a plant on the way down, you’re doomed to fall and restart your climb. Luckily, the plants you’ve already created will remain, so it’s not all that bad. Teleporting warps could have helped with this issue though.
Gameplay changes quite a bit when two or three players are up to the task. Communication is absolutely necessary in order to succeed. If you’re all going in different directions, your character/s may disappear from the screen and then regenerate next to one of the other players. When a player is on free-fall, the camera will generally focus on the character that’s higher up and standing still. However, on several occasions the camera will end up following the falling grimp, resulting in chaos for everyone. All two or three players have to climb back up. These issues and a few others scream frustration. Fortunately, the level of frustration is not enough to overcome the amount of entertainment the game provides. Even if you’re angry, you’ll end up playing the game for hours on end, almost forgetting to eat and sleep.
Playing co-op with other people is really fun. Even if it requires more skill and patience from everyone, it’s truly rewarding to accomplish the goals as a team. On the same screen, one could be pollinating a new plant, while the other grabs some extra time, and the third player continues the climb. You can also make combos all together, save each other from falling, and jump like trapeze artists.
One of the best attributes of this game is the amazing visuals. The game design is very simple but ultra-modern and artistic. You could grab a screenshot and use it as a painting to decorate a minimalistic living room. The overall design is bold and full of color, with plants and branches curling up, stems slowly popping out and creating new platforms, and pollen seeds floating all over in a peaceful and mesmerizing manner. The grimps are wimpy little characters full of charm. They’re so small sometimes they’re difficult to see!
I wouldn’t say the soundtrack of the game is as innovative as the visuals, but it’s definitely not very common in video games. It’s more like what you hear when you go shopping at a modern clothing store. However, the new arcade genre is using disco-style music more and more, especially in titles like Geometry Wars. This alternative kind of music definitely sets the mood for a frantic battle against gravity and suits the style of PixelJunk Eden.
PixelJunk Eden is also a pioneering game in a few ways. First of all, the game supports the new trophy system the PS3 is starting to adopt. Much like Xbox Achievements, players will obtain trophies after completing specific tasks and finishing the game. There’s also a video recording function. You can record your own performance during the game and then upload it directly to YouTube without exiting the game. We know the Spore Creature Creator has this option and is a tremendous success, so it’s nice to see it implemented in new games. To top it off, PixelJunk Eden is one of the few games that support remote play. This means that, if you manage to set it up successfully (still trying), you’ll be able to play PixelJunk Eden on your PSP while you’re away, as long as there’s an Internet connection available.
All these features and ultimately the exciting, addictive, and utterly entertaining gameplay make this game deserving of a high score. I truly enjoyed it, and I’m sure many of you out there won’t be able to give up your SIXAXIS or DualShock 3 controllers once you start playing. For the small $10 price tag, you ought to give it a try!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.8 Graphics
Stunning and very artistic level design proves 2D graphics are not a thing of the past. 3.9 Control
Some aspects could be tweaked and improved, but they provide a good overall experience. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Cool and modern disco-style soundtrack sets the mood for a frantic battle against gravity. It suits this game’s style without a problem. 4.6 Play Value
You could spend hours upon hours playing this title despite its simplicity. The addiction level is high, and only a few of you may be able to escape once the game takes over your PS3. 4.5 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.