Review: Child of Eden

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Imagine tripping out on a hallucinogenic drug while listening to pulsing techno music, staring into a kaleidoscope, and experiencing the most intense orgasm of your entire life, all at the same time. That’s what playing Child of Eden is like.

Child of Eden, the latest creation from game development mastermind, Tetsuya Mizuguchi, is an on-rails shooter built for standard control pads and Kinect motion controls, complete with–in typical Mizuguchi fashion–a rhythmic flair. In all ways but the title, it is Rez’s successor.

In the game, you are pulled along on a mesmerizing journey through five stages (known as Archives), blasting away at a virus that has corrupted the artificial intelligence known as Eden. This virus manifests itself as a wide variety of exotic objects and creatures, such as plants, sea life, aliens and microorganisms, which you must eradicate while hastily zipping across clockwork dreamscapes, blossoming flower gardens, star-filled galaxies and deep sea worlds that are like taking a submarine ride through a funky, psychedelic aquarium. Needless to say, Child of Eden is one gorgeous game.

The gameplay is incredibly easy to grasp too, but at the same time presents a stiff enough challenge to keep you coming back for more, time and time again. Enemies fly across the screen. You shoot at them by aiming a cursor with the left analog stick. You earn points and stars based on your performance. And that’s pretty much it. This is a ‘top your high score’ arcade style shooter all the way, so don’t expect a whole lot of complexity.

To shoot, you either pull on the right trigger to fire a rapid-fire Tracer beam or hold down the A button and paint up to eight targets simultaneously with a lock-on homing laser. Incoming fire and enemies marked by glowing purple indicators can only be defeated with the Tracer, while enemies with a red target must be taken down with the lock-on laser, so there is definitely more to the game than brainlessly blasting. You can also pick up screen-clearing Euphoria bombs, but they are rare, so use them wisely.

I still haven’t hopped aboard the Kinect train, so I can’t call upon any personal experiences to tell you how these actions work using motion controls. But I will tell you that this is the first game to come along that has at least tempted me to buy one. Fortunately, though, Kinect is not a requirement, and the game plays like a dream with a standard Xbox 360 controller in hand. So if you too are without a Kinect, you shouldn’t fear that you are somehow getting less of a game. Child of Eden was made with the added sense of touch in mind (the forthcoming PS3 version will also support Move), but the developers did make sure to offer unique and equally immersive experiences for both control schemes.

Regardless of your choice of control method, every shot you take and every virus deleted generates a drum or snare beat or another sound effect that essentially creates the game’s soundtrack on the fly based on your actions, and by homing in on eight targets at once you can create what’s known as an Octa-Lock. This rewards you with bonus points if you let the laser swarm fly in proper rhythm with the frenetic electronic tunes thumping in the background, performed by the Genki Rockets. Other than that, though, the synchronization between the gameplay and music is really more style than substance. By the end of my time with the game, I did crave more opportunities to be able to score points based on shooting to the beat.

As you might expect from a rail shoot ‘em up, Child of Eden isn’t an overly long game, but it doesn’t need to be, and in fact it’s better that it doesn’t drag on for hours on end. Each archive generally lasts for 10-15 minutes, but to unlock the advanced stages you must first obtain a certain number of stars. So depending on how many times you fail and how many archives you have to replay to increase your star count, you’re looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of two to four hours on the first trip through.

And that is really the whole fun of the game – to constantly revisit levels and attempt to improve your high scores for personal bragging rights, or so you can post them to the online leaderboards and see how your skills stack up against other players. A good amount of bonus content also helps to extend the game’s shelf life even further. Once you’ve completed the five stages, a sixth archive unlocks and provides you with an endless survival challenge mode. A hard difficulty setting, concept artwork, alternate visualizer skins, and a sound effect modifier are other unlockable rewards to be discovered.

While many rail shooters are prone to petering out in a short period of time, Child of Eden sinks into your brain like a drug and doesn’t let go, blowing away your senses and sending you into an eternal state of bliss with its fast-paced gameplay and its invigorating blend of stunning graphics and hypnotic beats. I simply cannot recommend it enough.

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Pros:
+ Thrilling, sensory-overloading rail shooter gameplay
+ Easy to pick up and play, but still puts up a tough fight
+ Euphoric convergence of graphics and sound
+ Addictive ‘just one more game’ replayability

Cons:
– Connection between gameplay and music could have gone further

Affiliate Links:
Buy from AmazonXbox 360 Games) or eStarland

Game Info:
Platform: Xbox 360 (also coming to PS3 later this year)
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Q? Entertainment
Release Date: 6/14/2011
Genre: Arcade Rail Shooting
ESRB Rating: E10+
Players: 1
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!