One of video gaming most widely-celebrated titles, Rez (released for the Dreamcast, PlayStation 2 and, most recently, Xbox Live Arcade) was an audio-visual tour-de-force; a shooting game in which you moved through abstract landscapes while breaking shapes apart to a heady trance soundtrack. Child of Eden - director Tetsuya Mizuguchi's pseudo-sequel to that game - charts a similar course, propelling the player through a series of dreamlike worlds on an otherworldly journey in order to restore the memory of a beautiful girl called Lumi.
It's a staggeringly pretty game filled with earthly shapes, space vistas and translucent creatures plucked from the depths of the ocean, which float across your field of vision. As with Rez, the music acts in concert with the visuals, and your bullets trigger sound effects that help the trance soundtrack heave and build to a series of protracted climaxes.
Lights, Camera, Action
But underneath the sound and visuals, Child of Eden is a relatively traditional video game. You have a health bar that always displayed on-screen, and the aim of the game is to 'shoot' enemies before they shoot you. If you run out of life then the level is failed and you must start again. While there no score counter displayed on screen, every shot that meets its target is rewarded with points. If you manage to take down the final boss of each stage, then you're awarded a star rating - and given a place on the world leaderboards where you can compete with your friends.
But while it's easy to draw comparisons to on-rails shooters such as Panzer Dragoon and Sin and Punishment 2, Child of Eden marks itself out not only with the journey but also its heavily promoted compatibility with Microsoft Kinect sensor. Played with Kinect, the game has you sweeping your arms in wide arcs in order to select targets on the screen - up to eight at a time. Then, when you're ready, you splay your fingers outwards, launching a clutch of tracer rockets towards the enemies.
Left or Right?
You have two types of bullets at your disposal. Rockets are released with your right hand while raising your left hand to the screen fires a pitter-patter stream of pink bullets towards the reticule. Different enemies are susceptible to each type of attack, and reading clearly which one you must use to take each one down is key to progression. Finally, you have access to a limited number of smart bombs which will clear the screen of enemies if you raise both hands above your head, a move referred to by the game as uphoria
Played with Kinect, Child of Eden is a unique, fascinating proposition which integrates your body fully into the journey presented by the game. Sweeping your arms around, grasping, before splaying your fingers out puts you in the position of an orchestral conductor. It's undoubtedly the best single-player experience currently available for the system.
But for players who want to climb the leaderboards and play the game for points, Child of Eden is best-played like Rez: with a controller. Here, the distance your thumbs must travel in order to switch between bullet types is vastly decreased, making the controls tighter and more immediate.
Either way, Child of Eden is a unique, mesmerizing experience. Some may complain that it a relatively short game, with just five basic worlds coupled with a longer, more Rez-like bonus stage once these are cleared. But while it only takes a couple of hours to see all that Child of Eden has to offer, it'll take far longer to master.
Regardless, value isn only judged by length alone, and the idiosyncratic, fascinating journey presented by Child of Eden is one of recent gaming most valuable - a transcendent experience that will consume your mind if you let it in.
- Abstract, jaw-dropping visuals.
- Transcendant soundtrack.
- Excellent score attack proposition.
- A little short.
- Slightly too little variation in stages.
- Can be unfairly difficult.