Refreshing. Yep, just that one descriptive jumps out when attempting to summarize Child of Eden, the new sequel to the innovative “Rez” which came available for the PS2/Sega Dreamcast in 2002. How so? Improvement on the truly innovative, a rare commodity in gaming where the formulaic genres reign supreme. It’s on this basis alone that Child of Eden deserves some serious credit and respect, because during the development phase, Child of Eden probably wasn’t the easiest game to sell and describe to financial backers, due to it’s being based on a format of experience dubbed “synesthesia”, (where one set of experienced stimuli will often kick start another sensory experience with a different sense, such as when viewing a particular pattern is such a sensory overload it causes a feel, smell, sound or even taste that’s can be very difficult to explain why gamers react to such stimuli in such varied ways…), although it was likely a lot easier this time due to the success of the well-received predecessor “Rez”. There’s undoubtedly a lot of sales/bottom line mentality that dictates what projects get support in the whole of game development, and when that project is loosely based on a phrase/phenomenon that makes a lot of people/gamers go, “syna-what?”, it likely takes a lot of perseverance to get a title like Child of Eden to come to fruition at all, but we’re glad it did, because titles like Child of Eden, imperfect as they may be, that open our eyes to what’s possible in gaming.
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Child of Eden is classified, at least as descriptively as possible for such a new genre, as a rhythm action game, and we’ve also heard this format referred to as a rail shooter. The goal? This takes a little poetic license with your imagination, but play along. The mission of Child of Eden is to save “Project Lumi”, the first human born in space, now a beautiful Asian cyber-personality in the online world of Eden from viruses and corruption. Maybe not the most plausible storyline, but it gives the gamer their reason to play hero. The method the gamer uses to dispatch the viruses is two-fold, either by using a lock-on target mechanism which destroys all that have been targeted upon release, or the tried and true 3rd person manual targeting system. If the player can manage to destroy their targets in sync with the background music they are rewarded with a bonus bump to their score. When the action gets too hectic, Child of Eden supplies gamers with it’s own version of a screen clearing “smart bomb” called “euphoria”.
This task takes place over 5 levels referred to as “archives”, each with their own special title/theme, in order they are, Matrix, Evolution, Beauty, Passion, and Journey. The gamer can dispatch these enemies with either a standard PS3/Xbox 360 controller, but the more precise and fluid method for Xbox 360 owners is definitely using Kinect. It remains to be seen how well the game translates to PlayStation Move, as PS3 owners won’t be seeing the comparable release of their edition of Child of Eden until September. When this does happen using the PS Move control system will likely afford PS3 Child of Eden players the same edge in speed and deeper immersion in to the overall Child of Eden experience that the Kinect does for Xbox 360 gamers.
In theory, Child of Eden may sound like a rather simplistic linear shooter, but make no mistake, this is far from an average 3rd person shoot ’em up. The visuals are an absolute kaleidoscope of color and shape on a level few games can match, and the serene, rave-like beats that accompany the action really do create an experience that becomes much more than the sum of its parts, giving what some gamers describe as an actual euphoric mix of pleasurable sight & sound they can really lose themselves in. So far everything everything sounds pretty mint right? Mind blowing visuals, serene and pleasing techno-rave music, ability to utilize accessory peripherals for enhanced gameplay, what’s not to like? Therein lies the only real weakness of Child of Eden, there simply isn’t enough of it.
Depending on a gamer’s adeptness at Child of Eden, a start to finish playing of this title can be completed 3-5 hours, and some exceptionally skilled gamers claim to have actually finished this title in an unacceptably short 90 minute run. Now in the interest of fair and thorough reviewing, Child of Eden does have perks that make an effort towards boosting the replay value factor. There’s extra artwork, videos, art styles, and other unlockables. The gamer even gets to select a new creature to adorn Lumi’s garden for each level on the title screen, and most importantly after the main campaign is finished, a sixth level is accessed that is a “challenge mode”, which the goal being to survive through as many levels and as long as possible. Several gamers have already implied that at least where the soundtrack is concerned, this level, which starts out “rock” sounding and smoothly transforms back to “techno”, is saving the best for last.
Whether or not Child of Eden is to be considered a “buy” presents a very decisive dilemma, and this can only be weighed out by the individual gamer. Yes, Child of Eden is a pleasing, special, and unique title, that delivers some quality gaming, no question. Can it justify the $50 dollar, new release price tag for only a few hours of quality entertainment? That’s the answer that only lies in the eye of the beholder. Our best summation is to offer this analogy, if seeing your favorite flick in the theatre, parking, popcorn, babysitter and all, is still acceptably within your entertainment budget, then Child of Eden is probably a “buy”, if not, you may want to wait for Child of Eden to become the next, “discounted Tuesday afternoon matinee”.