Child of Eden Review

By Adam Rosenberg - Posted Jun 21, 2011

Child of Eden isn't the reason you should run out and buy a Kinect, but it's definitely one you should pick up if you already have one. Fans of Mizuguchi's Rez and that type of gameplay will find plenty to enjoy here, and the price is perfectly paired with the amount of content you're getting.

The Pros
  • Gorgeous visuals
  • Rump-shaking dynamic soundtrack transforms as you play
  • Equally enjoyable with Kinect or standard Xbox 360 controller
  • Budget price fits the content you're getting
The Cons
  • Very challenging in the later Archives
  • Most will have to replay levels multiple times in order to advance

Child of Eden Review:

Q Entertainment's Child of Eden has been the great hope for Xbox 360 gamers since it was announced alongside the official name of Microsoft's Kinect peripheral at E3 2010. While many of the Kinect games so far deliver simple interactive experiences, Eden's pedigree as a work of Rez creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi and lush audio/visual presentation seem tailor-made for the more serious gamer. The Ubisoft-published release is now here, carrying a budget price of $40, which means we can finally consider the question of whether or not the complete experience is worth clearing out an eight-foot space in front of your Xbox 360 console.

In short: Yes. Yes it is.


The Garden of Internet

Child of Eden boils down as an on-rails shooter, but to sum it up as that and nothing more cheapens the experience. There's a story here, one that is simultaneously abstract and engaging, but the game's unconventional use of live-action video enhances your connection with what's going on.

At the center of the narrative is Lumi, a beautiful, young woman who was in fact the first human to be born in outer space. The game opens long after Lumi's life has ended, though her consciousness still exists in digital form on the Internet, which is now referred to simply as Eden. That consciousness, which is broken into five "archives" (levels) for the purposes of the game, is now in danger being destroyed by invading viruses.

It is your job then to protect Lumi from the attacks and restore her digital being to its preserved form. You do this by flying through each archive along a set path, blasting bad code with your two weapons, a multiple lock-on laser and a rapid fire "dumb" laser. The combat, which the game calls "purification," is central to what you're doing, and it can be managed using either a standard Xbox 360 gamepad or your Kinect camera.

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Go With the Flow

While the Kinect may not be essential, you should absolutely start off the game using it if you have access to one. The controls are a little easier to manage using buttons and an analog stick, but the unique motion controls pair perfectly with the game's dynamic soundtrack. It won't be long before you're really getting into the groove, moving to the beat as you use both hands to purify virtual Lumi's memories.

With the Kinect, each hand manages a different weapon. Your left one controls the rapid-fire attack; point it in the direction of the screen -- I personally prefer the "Darth Vader stopping laser blasts" pose, but a fist or extended finger works fine as well -- and a set of purple crosshairs pops up, firing continuously and moving along with your hand.

Your right hand controls the more powerful "Octo-Lock" lock-on attack. The crosshairs work the same, though there's no auto-fire. Up to eight targets can be queued up, with the weapon locking on as your aim passes over them. Swat your hand -- a light-ish swat will do just fine, the better to keep your aim on target -- to fire off the shots. The closer the unleashed attack is to the beat of the music, the higher your point earnings will be (there are "Good" and "Perfect" ratings).


The only added complexity beyond that comes in with your pickups. Enemies will occasionally drop one of two types of orbs when they are taken out. Shoot a blue-colored orb with either of your weapons to get some health back. Purple orbs, on the other hand, add to your stock of screen-clearing Euphoria attacks, a move pulled off with Kinect by throwing both arms above your head simultaneously.

The Kinect controls feel fluid and intuitive, though you may need to perform some calibration and tuning exercises to get it all working right. I noticed that the camera would sometimes lose my hand when the aim shifted to the lower part of the screen, though the Kinect Tuner (and some added light sources in my media room) improved the issue.

Switching hands also takes a little bit of getting used to. Child of Eden is a game that is all about precision. The Kinect controls deliver as they should, but the crosshairs always track to whichever hand is extended. The act of switching to another hand will frequently confuse the game for a second or two, throwing your aim off momentarily.

Your best bet is to first bring your unused hand up to the same position your extended one before pulling the extended one down and away. Euphoria is another matter entirely; you're aim will be thrown off, nothing to be done about it. It's too bad there aren't voice controls available for these various triggers.


Mechanical Mechanics

While Kinect controls offer the best moment-to-moment precision, the Xbox 360 gamepad is what you'll want to use for racking up the highest scores. Swapping between weapons is as simple as pressing a different button (A for Octo-Lock and LT or X for rapid-fire using the game's default controls), as is triggering a Euphoria attack. The left analog stick moves your crosshairs.

The 360 controller makes the game feel considerably easier. There's still a fair level of challenge -- more on that below -- but the seamless weapon switching and left analog controls offer a greater degree of control of where you're aiming at all times. You really only feel the absence of the Kinect's flexibility when taking out wide spreads of missile attacks or barriers that must be taken down by shooting widely spaced targets. The analog stick simply doesn't offer the same level of precision.


Being Cast Out of Eden

I mentioned Child of Eden's "fair level of challenge" above. This is a relative definition. Eden is a short game, with each of the five archives lasting no more than roughly 15 minutes apiece. Even if you've got a talent for twitch-based shooters, expect to die a few times as you learn the layouts of each archive and the patterns the bosses follow.

Unlocking the five archives isn't as simple as finishing one and moving onto the next. Your performance is rated on a five-star scale with each run-through, based on your completion time, the number of pickups you snatched and the percentage of purified enemies. Opening up an archive requires a certain number of earned stars overall, though the later archives will usually require additional playthroughs of earlier levels before you hit the appropriate count.

It is fortunate then that each archive is a unique and beautiful world unto itself, with environment ranging from a grid-like computer world reminiscent of Tron to a steampunk cityscape in the sky to a psychedelic undersea voyage. And more than that besides. You won't get tired of traveling through these spaces; instead, each successive playthrough will give you a better feel for how to approach each one.

Once you've finished the core game, a sixth challenge mode is unlocked that is all about earning high scores. There's also some appeal in replaying previously completed archives, thanks to unlockables that add various entities seen in the game to Lumi's Garden (the main menus), different audio and video filters, art galleries and music.


Speaking of music, it complements each archive's environment perfectly. The character of what you're hearing changes constantly depending on which weapon you're using and how effective your attacks are. You're orchestrating what amounts to a grand-scale virus removal as if it's a neon-infused symphony of light and sound. Whether you're using motion controls or a standard controller, it is delightful to see and hear unfold.

Child of Eden isn't the reason you should run out and buy a Kinect, but it's definitely one you should pick up if you already have one. Fans of Mizuguchi's Rez and that sort of on-rails shooter will find plenty to enjoy here, and the price is perfectly paired with the amount of content you're getting. This game is beautiful to behold and fun to play even without a Kinect, but consider Eden an essential purchase if you've got one of the motion cameras and haven't yet figured out what to do with it.