Ubisoft and Rez creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi bring some beauty to Xbox and Kinect but does it unleash the true potential of the controller?
It’s not the killer app that Microsoft really needs to validate the future of controller-free gaming
Child of Eden is best described as a rhythm action title mixed with an on the rails shooter. It’s no accident that the games closest analogue is 2001’s Rez – they share the same lead designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi and Child of Eden also acts as a spiritual successor to the former game. In the 23rd Century, the collected knowledge of the human race has been stored in an archive known as Eden. With Eden threatened by a terrible virus, the player must dive into each archive and use their skills to save it from corruption. There, you’ll also find Lumi; the first star child and she acts as your guide through this strange and psychedelic world.
The concept is bizarre but it’s likely most people will bypass the story to get straight to the game. The player is represented onscreen by a targeting reticule as the camera sweeps through five major levels which have to be cleared of corruption. You’ve got two weapons at your disposal – a quick fire Vulcan cannon and a lock on option which fires a series of projectiles, as well as a screen clearing power called the Euphoria bomb.
Child of Eden is on the rails shooter – one of the oldest genres in gaming. What sets it apart, aside from the stunning visuals, is the implementation of motion controls with the help of Microsoft’s Kinect. The controls are simple – brush over multiple enemies or weak points with your right hand and flick your wrist to release a volley of shots. Brandish your left and you’ll send out a stream of tracer fire. Alternating between the two is key to success and Kinect does a great job of switching efficiently back and forth.
Kinect games succeed or fail on their responsiveness and Child of Eden is one of the most accurate titles we’ve played yet. It’s a unique and refreshing experience, especially with a large TV, as you almost feel like a conductor controlling the pace and flow of what’s happening onscreen. Add in the gorgeous and varied visuals and the music which responds to how you are playing and you can’t help but be enveloped by the game. For the best results, Mizuguchi recommends secreting a couple of controllers around your person for added sensory input.
Speaking of controllers, Child of Eden is perfectly playable with the regular gamepad and, while it doesn’t feel like such a unique experience, there’s little doubt that many gamers will find it the preferred option. Levels which are practically unbeatable using Kinect melt by at a blistering pace with the controller. Several mini puzzles involving circular gates which have to be shot in a split second were a source of constant frustration with the motion controller but are a cinch with regular sticks and face buttons.
With five major levels (and a smattering of unlockable archives) Child of Eden is a little lacking in content. Some sections can be completed in less than 10 minutes and your overall progress is hampered by the need to collect a certain number of stars to unlock the next level – in a move that smacks of an attempt to make the game feel longer. Completists will enjoy diving into the same stage time and again in pursuit of a perfect score but more casual players will find the repetition a little dull. Naturally, there are art, movie and music galleries to unlock but how long to players really spend perusing extras like these?
Child of Eden borrows liberally from Rez to good effect, building on the former’s inscrutable and spectacular blend of visuals and music, while adding in full motion controls. It’s another step towards the full sensory involvement which Mizuguchi is striving for and gives gamers (and developers) a glimpse of the potential of Kinect for titles which don’t rely on party tricks to succeed. But it’s not the killer app that Microsoft really needs to validate the future of controller-free gaming, offering little else new to the genre and with spikes in difficulty that will have most players reaching for their gamepad. PS3 players will have to wait until September for their own, Move-enabled, version of the game.