On June 14, you won’t be able find a better foil to Duke Nukem Forever than with Child of Eden, which I’d like to call the anti-shooter shooter. Child of Eden is many things, but what is arguably its strongest asset is in potentially being one of the best feel-good games of 2011. Its well-produced electronic music and visual vibrancy are a mix you seldom see in other videogames and convey a near-Prosaic experience.
At our most recent demo session with the game’s latest build, we managed to learn a bit more about Child of Eden’s plot. We all know about the virus-cleansing premise that has you traveling through the archive known as Eden. What some of you don’t know is that this is related to Eden’s plan to give virtual rebirth to Lumi, who was the first human being born in outer space hundreds of years ago. To add a hint of poignancy, she was born in 2019, September 11. Lumi lived her entire life in her native space station but never went to Earth, although she was very much interested in the beauty of the planet. Eden saw its vast archive as a way to give Lumi that chance.
Creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi sees this theme as a form of singularity, where technology miraculously advances to the point of human conception. It’s a nice complement to the other ‘s’ word that has been both associated with Child of Eden and Rez, synaesthesia.
It's already common knowledge how much Child of Eden is an unofficial, spiritual, call-it-what-you will successor to Rez. Heck, many of us would be equally excited if this was called Rez 2. Which brings me to the new level that was introduced during this demo session in Ubisoft's San Francisco office. Frankly, I was amused by how similar this level is to Area 4 from Rez; no surprise, Passion is also the fourth level in Child of Eden. Both have light beige-colored backgrounds and both have arguably the most upbeat music in their respective titles. Both also do a fantastic job in offering images that set themselves apart from the other levels.
In Passion's case, it's this wondrous collection of Leonardo Da Vinci designs with a futuristic visual twist. There's also an antiquated charm in using attacks to turn gears, allowing me to progress further into the level. At one point, I was flying through what appeared to be a city that had skyscrapers on both the ground and on the ceiling, not unlike those urban visuals in Inception or a Gundam space colony. And then they came: running men, mid-sized enemies jogging close to my reticule. Amusement gave way to a sensation of feeling floored, since Rez ALSO had a running man. At this point I wanted to retitle Passion 'Area 4 Redux'.
One of the other features I learned about involved an addition to the control scheme. Since its unveiling at E3 2010, we all knew that clapping took care of toggling between firing modes. Now the game will have an option to let you use both firing modes at the same time, using a rather sensible setup where one hand takes care of the rapid fire while the other deals with the missile lock-on.
It was a surprise to learn of one minor gameplay difference between Child of Eden and Rez, namely with the scoring opportunities. While attacking in both games has a musical consequence, Child of Eden takes it a step further by rewarding the rhythmically-inclined with high scores. The more you launch missiles to the beat of the music, the higher your multiplier score will be. It’s essentially the game’s way to get gamers involved with the leaderboard.
As a take-off on the Trance Vibrator accessory designed for Rez, there will be vibration functionality for all four Xbox 360 controllers, two that will vibrate to the rhythm and two to vibrate with the shots. The studio even made a waist belt to hold all four controllers, but neither the studio nor Ubisoft plans to produce such as product for the public, although they are considering making a belt schematic for those who want to make one themselves.
Here are some other points of interest gleened from our demo session:
- Lumi’s Garden is the name of the different menus for each chapter. As you play, each garden evolves with more visuals.
- Feel Eden mode is Child of Eden’s God mode. Much like how great it was to just watch someone play Rez without the pressure of the losing lives, so too does Child of Eden provide that option.
- The woman who is depicted as Lumi is Nami Miyahara, front woman for Mizuguchi’s virtual band, the Genki Rockets.
Before finishing up our session, I asked the Ubisoft spokesman what ever happened to The Journey Project, the intriguing contest where fans could submit photos for possible inclusion in the Child of Eden's final stage. I had tracked the contest page myself up until its November 2010 deadline, but did not see any updates since. So it was pleasing to hear that the photo project was still planned for the final level in the game. The response was a huge success where about 400 out of 4000 submitted pictures were chosen. Did your photo make the final cut? You can experience Journey for yourself when Child Of Eden ships June 14 for the Xbox 360; the PlayStation 3 version that is currently in development doesn’t have a release date.