Jeremy Jastrzab
27 Sep, 2011

Child of Eden Review

PS3 Review | Synaesthesia returns home.
Child of Eden was released on the Xbox 360 in June, and made the most compelling display of core gaming for Microsoft’s Kinect camera to date. The brain child of gaming visionary, Tetsuya Mizuguchi, best known for his music infused titles (including Rez and Lumines), Child of Eden embodies the concept of ‘synaesthesia’. While the response to the game was mixed, it was a refreshing experience that would greatly satisfy the open-minded core gamer. Now, PlayStation 3 owners get a chance to experience this latest Move-enabled title.

The concept of synaesthesia advocates the “subjective sensation of a sense other than the one being stimulated” – such as the sense of colour being stimulated by sound. Like Rez before it, Child of Eden is a rail-shooter with a few significant differences, the most immediate being the mind-blowing presentation. Through an uplifting j-pop inspired sound track and unparalleled breath-taking visual style, Child of Eden is the video game incarnation of this concept. And as explained by Mizuguchi himself in a prior preview, playing the game is supposed to invoke intangible reward through much more “organic” methods. So rather than earning ammo or upgrades, the game is more about the reward associated with the audio and visual displays from completing your successful combos and by ‘playing’ to the beat each in-game track.

This picture never gets old.

This picture never gets old.
While Child of Eden is a rail-shooter at its core, it's elegantly wrapped in a minimalist story. Told through concise exposition and accompanying videos, the player’s aim is to cleanse ‘Eden’. Set in a fictitious future, the Internet has been surpassed with a virtual information archive known as Eden (this is also where Rez is set). This archive is populated by the virtual reincarnation of ‘Lumi’ (i.e. the Child of Eden), who was apparently the first child born in space. At the beginning of the game, Lumi’s utopic existence is disturbed by a virus that has infected the five major archives: Matrix, Evolution, Beauty, Passion and Journey, which are meant to represent different ‘states of being’. As such, the player is sent into Eden to cleanse the archives of this virus. As pointed out by Mizugchi, the key operating term is ‘cleanse’, as you’re not there to kill…

As a synaesthesic experience, a combination of audio and visual splendour, Child of Eden is without peer. The psychedelic vibe is still there, but this time the approach is more ‘organic’ and fluid than Rez. The visuals accompanying each archive are unique, relating to the individual archive, and do a wholly intriguing job of capturing the essence of each. Rather than wasting time on descriptions, you’re best off checking them out for yourself. The soundtrack has moved onto a more j-pop vibe with shades of electric – performed by Genki Rockets – as opposed to the techno heavy track from Rez. While the first and last archives are easily the best, it’s the kind of music that won’t resonate to universal tastes. Still, if you do like this style, you’re certainly in for a pumping treat. The audio and visuals combine to create a game that virtually never feels anything other than endearing or uplifting, and has the rare distinction of transcending the need for deep and complicated gameplay.

Hadron collider of the future.

Hadron collider of the future.
On the Xbox 360, Child of Eden was effectively the first rail-shooter/core oriented title to utilise the Kinect camera. On the PlayStation 3, players will have a choice of seamlessly switching with the standard controller (as you could on the Xbox 360) or with PlayStation Move. Mind you, Move does take a moment to calibrate. You only need the wand, which will control the aiming reticule. You will automatically lock onto targets as you pass over them, where then a flick of the wand will then fire your weapon. The wand trigger controls your ‘tracer’, which will fire a constant stream. And the screen cleansing bomb – euphoria – is controlled by the central Move button.

There are some advantages to playing with Move, over Kinect and the standard controller. It’s definitely the most accurate and streamlined control method, making it the easiest to pick up and play (again, once calibrated). Furthermore, it isn’t as hard to judge the depth of projectiles this time. Just like a standard controller though, Move isn’t able to conjure the same level of involvement to the game as Kinect. While playing with Kinect, there is an element of urgency and rhythmic precision that is achieved, which is lost with the controller or Move and makes the game too easy to just ‘sit’ through. While you’ll get through the game fine, in order to be proficient and get high scores, your octo-locks need to be timed with the music, which is successfully acknowledged with a ‘perfect’ notification and enhancement of the beat at that time. And it’s inability to perform this element proficiently, or project the same level of involvement, that still makes Kinect preferable.

This would be nice for the garden.

This would be nice for the garden.
While this is a minor blip, this shouldn’t take too much away from the experience. Unfortunately, the main bone of contention with Child of Eden will (unavoidably) be the perceived length. Yes, you can ‘clock’ it within four to five hours, possibly less with just a controller. But just like a great CD, you don’t listen to it once and discard it; Child of Eden is an experience to the replayed over again. And not just to enjoy the track, but to chase the high scores and unlockable artwork (which is beautiful) and trophies. And as you play, more is revealed to you, with some crazy visual filters (the ‘trip’ mode is not kidding…), sound mixing options and a hard mode that is genuinely more challenging than the default difficulty. Sure, it’s a game that makes you wish there was more, but having more would have taken away from the overall experience. The length isn’t a fault, and the value is here - especially with the PS3 budget price - but only certain types of players will truly utilise it. And they know who they are.

As gaming technology gets more powerful and varied, the tools at developer’s disposal have never been greater, of which Child of Eden makes excellent use. It’s easily the most compelling application of ‘synaesthesia’ and a wholly unique audio/visual experience. It probably loses a little bit of the involvement that came along with Kinect, but Move is still an accurate experience that outweighs the conventional controller, and will make this the most accessible version. It’s ironic though, that the nature of the genre and the taste of the presentation make for the most compelling aspects, yet are the ones that are most likely to prevent Child of Eden from reaching everyone. For those who reject it on length and taste though, it’s your loss…
The Score
By being a completely fresh and unique titles, Child of Eden still manages to compel and delight on the PS3. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Child of Eden Content

E3 2011: Child of Eden trailer
09 Jun, 2011 Woah man.
Child of Eden 'How to Save Eden' Trailer
05 May, 2011 Are you up to the task?
Child of Eden 'Synesthesia' trailer
27 Apr, 2011 *Insert wide-grinned smile*
2 years ago
Day 1 purchase, and my wallet hates me for it.
2 years ago
It's a good day 1 purchase. The best game I've played this year.
2 years ago
I've got this on 360, but I'm also getting it on PS3. At less than $20 (from the UK) how can you complain?
2 years ago
Hitting it for sure.... and Ico/Sotc collection too. And I still need to find time to finish Gears 3 O.O.
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