Ever since its E3 2010 debut, Child of Eden instantly became one of my most anticipated titles of 2011. As a devout worshipper of Rez, I have long awaited for a successor to the wonderfully imaginative Dreamcast title. And after 10 years, that wait is finally coming to an end. On hand at PAX East 2011, Child of Eden took center stage at Ubisoft’s booth with a sensation of rhythmic beats and dazzling graphical effects. Running on the Xbox 360 and utilizing the Kinect, Child of Eden was beyond anything I had ever anticipated.
For those that aren't familiar with Rez, Child of Eden is a similar experiment on synesthesia, whereby sound, vision and touch are seamlessly integrated into one hypnotic experience. The objective of Child of Eden is to shoot the various enemies that populate its robust world, which in turn produce musical notes. Utilizing the Kinect, Child of Eden’s motion controls are simple yet effective. Your right hand is used to target multiple enemies at once while your left hand is used as a rapid-fire weapon. Switching between the two is a smooth transition without any noticeable lag. While many gamers reported arm fatigue during the demo, I didn't notice any weariness in my arms in my 20 or so minutes with Eden; I was actually enjoying the satisfying sense of power I felt when using my arms to rid Eden of its corrupted creatures. Child of Eden is a huge win for Microsoft’s peripheral as the radiant shooter takes the Kinect out of the casual gaming mindset and plunks it into an inviting, kaleidoscopic world beyond the likes of Dance Central and Kinect Sports.
Based on the playable level on display, titled Beauty, Child of Eden features the signature trance-inducing soundtrack and on-rails shooter gameplay that made Rez so popular. But unlike the wire-frame visuals and flat polygons of its predecessor, Child of Eden – or Beauty at least – is presented in a brilliant and colorful, organic world. Where Rez’s enemies resembled mechanical constructs such as spacecrafts, Child of Eden’s denizens are inherently lifelike and move and flow with a tangible fluidity that will leave players in awe. The visuals at play are simply astounding as burgeoning figures and blossoming flora permeate Eden’s amorphous landscape. And its particle effects are some of the best I have ever seen.
While the gameplay remains unchanged, Child of Eden differs from Rez in terms of its perspective. Unlike Rez, Eden plays from a first-person point-of-view, a change which not only makes the game more immersive, but also ties into its change of difficulty. Gone are the days of Rez and watching your wire-frame avatar evolve. Instead, Child of Eden embraces its intrinsic gameplay and focuses on entertaining the player. You cannot die in Child of Eden; you are only penalized for being unable to take out incoming fire. At first, taking damage will only drain your special meter but once depleted, your points will decrease and your subsequent rank will suffer as well. It's easy to see why such a drastic change was made, Ubisoft undoubtedly wants to make Child of Eden appeal to every gamer. But as someone who happily wore out his Dreamcast playing Rez into the wee hours of the night, it is upsetting to see the challenge go. The ranking system seems to be enough for those looking to satisfy their competitive spirit. My only concern however, is for Child of Eden's lasting power. Rez might have only been comprised of five areas but its challenge kept me coming back for more; this wasn't a title I could initially finish in one sitting. And being that Child of Eden is significantly easier than Rez, I hope that developer Q Entertainment has packed in enough content to make the experience last.
The on-stage demo inevitably culminates to an encounter with an enormous flower that uses its petals to protect itself and launch projectiles towards the screen. Making use of both available weapons, this multi-tiered battle wasn’t quite the challenge I expected from a Rez successor (then again, this was the tutorial level), but I was far too enthralled by the battle's awesome light and sound show to even notice.
Child of Eden is one of those rare experiences that cannot be captured by images and gameplay trailers alone. The appreciation of this brainchild from the creative mind of Tetsuya Mizuguchi lies in experiencing its rich aesthetics first hand. To play Child of Eden is to be swept up by a blissful wave of color, light, and sound. It is a luminous attack on the senses, a visual miracle that rises far above what gamers normally assume of the shooter genre.
Child of Eden is set to be released on June 14, 2011 on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.