Something that Kinect naysayers have been rooting for since the system’s initial reveal is the ability for the controller-less peripheral to deliver some innovative and ‘hardcore’ gaming that breaks the mould of Kinect-ercise offerings.
Child of Eden is the best attempt so far to achieve that; it is innovative insomuch as it is the product of some wild imagination, however as the spiritual predecessor to Rez – a similarly crafted music-based shooter – it may not be flying the originality flag at full mast.
Child of Eden is difficult to describe adequately; it is best considered as an experience rather than a game. Created by Tetsuya Mitzuguchi, Child of Eden is dripping with flair and hypnotic visuals. The backstory is classic Japanese sci-fi hokum, dropping the player directly inside a sensory explosion of colours, shapes and sounds which allegedly simulates the experience of being inside a fictional futuristic AI, known as Eden. This setting allows the game to set you the task of destroying a virus that is taking hold in the AI and putting the future of project Lumi in grave danger. The player of course is pivotal in allowing Lumi to be completed, the result of which will ultimately cause the ‘birth’ of a human personality within Eden. Confused? Good, so was I, but it doesn’t really matter when the game pretty much leads you by the hand. It is also an excuse for the creative team to drop in some video clips of Lumi, who is represented in a very non-specific, elfin way, offering me nothing but a protracted delay to the matter in hand, playing the game.
As far as the gameplay goes, it works well. The viewpoint is delivered in a first person manner, with the playing field moving along on a predetermined path through the environment. The visuals really pull the game along and with the volume pumped up in a dark room you can find yourself flowing with the beat as you shoot down incoming missiles and clear out sections of geometric shapes or organic flora and fauna. The shooting is done with a combination of left and right hands, one for a missile effect complete with lock-on system. Simply draw your reticule across a number of targets and flick out your hands to release the missiles. The left hand offers a lower powered, but fast firing laser which is handy in its own way. Pickups may also give you the option of throwing both hands in the air for a ‘smart bomb’ effect, but it detracts from the simplicity of the left and right hand controls and almost breaks the game’s reverie.
The soundtrack really hits the spot, its techno beats adding to the atmosphere especially as the tempo picks up towards boss stages and the timing of shots can provide some nice variations to the sounds.
The game is relatively short; the 5 levels are unlocked as you progress and can be replayed as you assemble enough points to open up the next ‘archive’ in the mission to save Lumi. Depending on your success and level of perfection different unlocks will become available, including some attractive concept artwork. An adept and driven player will crash through the levels in an evening, but I believe the game is best in short doses. One or two archives at a time will expose the player to a relaxing sensory experience and leave them wanting more. The question is how often an average player will want to come back and re-experience those levels, no matter how much they subtly change.
Child of Eden has been a while coming and has been worth the wait. Although I believe we have yet to see a killer app for the Kinect, this title is a big step forward, ticking the right boxes for pedigree, innovation, and style. It could also be considered an over-embellished tech demo, but the reduced amount of Kinect lag and the care that has been lavished on the game would stamp that rumour flat. It has been interesting to see what has come from the mind of Mr Mizuguchi; I would however be very interested to see something in a similar vein crafted by somebody like Jeff Minter. Then, surely, the mind would be boggled.
Eden provides the Kinect gamer a satisfying experience that includes music and lights, but does not ask them to dance or jump around, and that makes it a winner.
Lasting Appeal: 6.5