Child of Eden PreviewPublisher: Ubisoft
Platform: Xbox 360
, PlayStation 3
14 June, 2011
There are a million possible ways to describe upcoming Kinect title, Child of Eden. We could say it's a trip-hop masterpiece, equal parts game and experiential artwork. We could say that the simplified gameplay and lurid tunnels of colour form a well-couched statement about how the ambition of modern games contrasts with their simplified designs. We could say that it's fun, offering a streamlined slice of on-rails action with an abstract twist.
Or, we could say that it's like Rez. That's pretty much all that needs to be said; it's like Rez. You're dragged along a pre-set path through a neon-bright, line-art landscape, shooting down enemies as you go. You can pan your view around a bit, but otherwise you're limited to just watching, shooting and listening.
It's the last one that's the most important, as the baseline trance music is enhanced by every shot until it becomes a cacophonous din of electronic pulses and thumping bass. Child of Eden is less a game and more of an interactive tool for experiencing dynamic dance music. Again; it's like Rez.
That shouldn't be too surprising, though - Child of Eden is a semi-sequel to Rez, after all. The little narrative that there is to follow places you in the same universe as Rez, with players fighting a new series of viruses in a bid to complete a new program. There are a lot of vague references to the program itself, Project Lumi, which is personified as a young woman, but from what we saw the story is really there more for flavour than anything else. Understanding the story isn't at all essential to enjoying the game and, actually, we found it more fun to just ignore the plot and immerse ourselves in the music and mayhem.
Mechanically, Child of Eden is largely identical to Rez too, but with a few extra tweaks and additions. Your basic weapon is still used by drawing your reticule over enemies and then releasing to shoot them all at once, but in Child of Eden you carry a second gun too. Firing like a conventional machine gun, this purple blaster is best used for knocking incoming bullets out of the sky. Some enemies are only susceptible to fire from this weapon too, and they have a purple colour to make this clear.
There are pick-ups to help you on your long, on-rails journey too - which is good, as some levels are fiendishly difficult. Health replenishers and rare ammo for your powerful ultra-attack can be salvaged from destroyed enemies.
There is one feature that sets Child of Eden apart from Rez, however, and that's the control system. Child of Eden provides two different control schemes for players to try - the first is the conventional controller-based variety; the latter is Kinect-based. When using Kinect to play Child of Eden, players gesture with their right hand to aim their primary weapon, thrusting a fist forwards to fire. The left hand controls the auto-fire blaster, while throwing both hands up in a manner which might suggest you just don't care will fire your ultra-weapon.
Child of Eden: It's kind of like Rez
As control systems go, the Kinect option seems playable then - the inputs are clear and easy to understand, with no difficult movements to master or complicated special moves to remember. Unfortunately, the reality is that the system responsiveness isn't always up to par with the design - Kinect can be easily confused. The fine-aiming that's needed to pick bullets out of the air and re-orientate your view is always possible, just not always at the speed required.
Ultimately, we found the best way to play Child of Eden was in the traditional manner - with a controller. Kinect, as with so many other games, is an appealing novelty at first, but it soon becomes more of a hindrance than a genuine enhancement.
As for the game itself, it's still hard to get away from the original reaction - that it's just like Rez. Fans of rhythm-action games or the art-style of that recently-re-released classic will undoubtedly find much to love about Child of Eden, just as we did. At the same time, though, while we wouldn't say we were disappointed, we would say it's hard to get as excited as we were over Rez. After all, as good as Child of Eden seems to be, it still feels like familiar ground.
Child of Eden is being developed by Q Entertainment and will be published by Ubisoft. It will be released for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on 14 June, 2011.