Child of Eden: review

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  • Format: 360 (version reviewed), PS3
  • Unleashed: Out Now (on 360)
  • Publisher: Ubisoft
  • Developer: Q Entertainment
  • Players: 1
  • Site: http://child-of-eden.uk.ubi.com/

Much has been made of Child of Eden’s price-to-playthrough time, with the basic argument being, “why should I pay $49.99 for a 90-minute game.” Even without being that reductive, many reviewers have said there simply isn’t enough content. Having played over a half-dozen hours of the game so far, we’re raring for more, and wondering what everyone is whining about.

The Child of Eden experience isn’t comparable to most modern games. It’s actually closer to listening to a new album by your favorite band. The first listen is foreign and new. You can never quite process what you’re listening to on the first play. If the album is good, each subsequent listen only gets better. Layers of sound are revealed, and knowing your favorite moments only makes the journey to them all the more exciting.

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There’s one moment near the end of the second level in Child of Eden entitled, “Evolution”. You’re presented with a whale covered in barnacles. As the barnacles light up, you must shoot them. The game calls this purification — you’re removing corruption from the creature. It’s a pretty long sequence, but intentionally so. The music builds and builds to a beautiful crescendo where the blue whale erupts into a bright red phoenix. It’s a beautiful, borderline emotional moment the first time you experience it, and it only gets better in subsequent playthroughs.

Child of Eden is full of moments like this, and the more you play it, the more you’ll find. This is a game with heart and soul, and anyone asking for more of it is ignoring the love and care that went into every single moment.

These moments are all amplified with the use of Kinect which makes the game even more remarkable. Child of Eden eliminates any fears we had with the Kinect’s launch titles. It makes the peripheral sing, and if there was ever a reason to get one, this is it.

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Child of Eden is already a game about feel. Much of what makes the game enjoyable lies in the abstract; the synaesthetic connection between visuals, sound, and gameplay that make all of Q Entertainment’s games so special. Kinect strengthens that sensation by eliminating binary button mashing, and turning the player into a goddamn space wizard.

We’d go as far to say that Kinect is a must if you truly want to get the most out of this game. It’s perfectly enjoyable with a controller, but the game’s highs are not as high when you’re slumped on a couch.

What’s even more surprising about Child of Eden is that you don’t just drift through each level. The game has some honest danger, purple bullets that are more threatening and less abstract than the junk Rez tossed at you. Introducing a touch of Ikaruga into the simple Rez gameplay, the bullets must be shot away by switching hands and firing with a purple machine gun. On hard difficulty, the constant need to switch weapons and stay on your toes makes the game even more engaging.

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Make no mistake, this isn’t a “bigger, better, more bad ass” version of Rez, but it does toss in a gameplay improvement or two. At high-level play, Rez became an exercise in squeezing every last point out of the boss fights, dragging out the levels in ways that weren’t very fun. In Child of Eden, high scores are obtained by playing the game as its meant to be played, with score bonuses tied into keeping the beat of the music.

Child of Eden’s best quality is that it can be every bit as challenging as it is visually arresting. We dare any rail-shooter detractor to try it and say it isn’t an engaging experience. Sure, you may go down a linear path, but there’s plenty of tricks to learn and employ along the way.

As stunning a journey as Child of Eden is, it isn’t without flaw. While we argue the game doesn’t need to be artificially lengthened, the developer wasn’t quite as confident in their product. An unlock system keeps you from accessing the later levels until you’ve earned a certain number of stars. If you don’t do well on the first few levels, you’ll most likely have to replay one or two before unlocking the final level. Once you’ve unlocked the levels, that problem won’t rear its ugly head again. But it’s something that Q Entertainment should seriously consider patching out of the game. It’s a needless addition that derails the game’s subtle narrative just to keep consumers from seeing the credits roll too soon.

The reality is that the credits will roll many times. Each level is extremely replayable, and the game is so well-paced that its a joy to fight your way to the cool parts.

The cold, serious tone of Rez is tossed aside in favour of themes like joy, happiness, and beauty. It might not be as “cool” as Rez, but Child of Eden is a more emotional journey. It may even seem a bit corny at first, but go along for the ride and you may be surprised by effect the game has on you. Who knows, you might even cry a bit, baby.

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Written by Joe D

Inspired by a love for obscure Sega Saturn games in the 90s, Joe is pretty much open to anything gaming has to offer. What he looks for in a game: creativity and strong design, or sometimes just an overwhelming sense of style.

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