Exclusive : Child of Eden – Hand-waving Impressions

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It’s a curious thing trying to explain Child of Eden, the latest output from Tetsuya Miziguchi, creator of abstract gaming gems like Lumines and Rez. Well, curious to those who haven’t played Rez. Child of Eden is in fact that game’s spiritual successor – and bears more than just a passing resemblance.

We recently had the opportunity to attend an event for the game, with an inspirational demonstration from Miziguchi himself. If you’re one of Rez’ many fanatics, you’ll be instantly familiar with Child of Eden and its simple mechanics. If you haven’t, it’ll all just seem like a dizzying array of lights and colour; an odd and abstract experience that scarcely seems like a game at all, and rather how you imagined far too much LSD taken at the planetarium to be like.

This is how it works: The game will guide you through a hypnotic, psychedelic world and it’s your job – using just your hands – to shoot at the multitude of odd, spiky flying objects that impede your path until they explode. So yes, it’s a rail-shooter…but there’s so much more to it than that.

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The version we played – and the one publisher Ubisoft and Miziguchi himself seem to be championing – is the Xbox 360 version, using Kinect as the primary input. Using your right hand, you’ll tag enemies by waving over them, firing a blast (and killing tag enemies) by quickly throwing your hand forward. Switching to your left hand dispenses Vulcan fire; a less effective, rapid fire that’s great for bringing down specific enemies. Throwing both hands up in the air (and subsequently waving them about like you just don’t care) deploys a screen-clearing bomb, called Euphoria.

It’s very much a synaesthetic experience combining all of visual, aural and tactile senses and melding – and I’m starting, unfortunately, to sound like one of those new age hippies – them in to one multisensory experience. Your field of vision is filled with a kaleidoscope of wonder, your ears with the pulsating beats and luscious enveloping rhythms that make up such a fundamental part of the game. You can also strap up to four controllers to your person, each vibrating at different intervals and frequencies.

Beauty

There’s a story buried in it somewhere; Lumi – a young girl and a metaphor for…something is trapped within a futuristic computer archive system, and the enemies you face are viruses. You, as a disembodied floating thing must rid each archive of viruses to free her.

Like many of Miziguchi’s other games there’s a point where all of the requisite pieces click together in your brain – and once again, it’s mind-blowing. Kinect seems the perfect controller for this – and more than any other compatible title I’ve played, this is the one that made me feel that I was the controller, the conductor of a grand orchestra. Sure, you’re sacrificing a sliver of the accuracy of a traditional gamepad for the experience of it all – but the option to play old-school is there if you want it, and it just feels better as a motion game.

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Child of Eden really is simple, but its simplicity is what makes it so difficult to explain. It’s a zen, relaxing, elegant and frankly, brilliant experience – the apex of which was a transcendental ride culminating in me shooting the digital barnacles from a giant, glittering translucent blue whale in space. What’s not to love?

This is Miziguchi’s second chance at bringing Rez’ magical gameplay to the general populace, and it would be a shame if Child of Eden was as overlooked as its forebear.

Child of Eden will be released on 360 and on June 14 in the US and June 17 in Europe. The PS3 release date is unconfirmed.

 

Last Updated: April 19, 2011

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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