Thursday, January 16, 2014

Child of Eden

Child of Eden is one of those games where I had the desire to play it based on its positive reception, but in this case what I saw of the visuals also made me curious to try it out. However, it wasn’t until after I got the game (as a Christmas gift) that I saw, on the back of the box, that it was a creation of Japanese game designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi, whose best known games are Rez and the Lumines series of puzzle games. Since I enjoy the Lumines series, I figured I would likely have some fun playing Child of Eden. Sure enough, I was right.

On September 11, 2019, the first human to ever be born in space is a girl named Lumi. During her life, she had always wanted to see the Earth, which she expressed in music she sent down to the planet, so when she died, her memories were archived and her body preserved. As humans make advancements in technology in the passing years, a space-wide internet is developed called Eden, which acts as an archive of all records of humanity. Later in the 23rd century, Project Lumi is put into motion, where Lumi’s data is used to create another version of her within Eden, but unfortunately Eden falls prey to a virus attack. It is then your duty to purify the virus and help restore Lumi and Eden to get Project Lumi up and running again.

I have seen praise for Child of Eden in which the game works well with the Xbox 360’s Kinect peripheral, to the point where using the sensor is actually seen as an advantage rather than a nuisance. Since I don’t own a Kinect or the 360 version of the game, but I do own the PS3 version and a PlayStation Move peripheral, my thoughts on Child of Eden are based on playing that. With that in mind, the controls work really well. There is the option of using a regular controller, but I found myself eventually using motion controls exclusively, since they worked better for the game and increased the immersion the game was going for in the first place. The game generally plays out like a music-based rail shooter, wherein you must aim at targets on the screen and purify them with a beam. You can move the reticle over multiple targets to use the beam on all of them at once, or you can use a tracer to fire at them one at a time; the tracer is weaker than the main beam, but using the tracer is the only way to purify smaller objects colored purple. Though this can be done with a normal controller, I found it much faster to pull off with the Move, since, once calibrated properly, I found myself able to aim at targets faster and the beam was a more passive ability, even though my arm begins to hurt after a while whereas on a Dualshock the beam had be used by holding down a button and using the analog stick felt a little slower (so in a sense it’s kind of a trade-off). If you don’t have a Move, though, a regular controller should still work just as well to get through the game.

Getting through each Archive may not be easy, however, since the game follows a health system with a Life Gauge split up into five sections. When you start each attempt, three of these slots are filled up and you can fill them back up again, though each Life refill you catch only fills up half a section. Fortunately, though there are only so many, it is possible to reach the end boss of an Archive with just enough health if your reflexes have been honed enough. You can also get some assistance purifying viruses by using Euphoria, which you get one shot of at the start of an attempt. However, these are more limited than the Life pick-ups, so it is advised that you use them wisely. You also get stars based on how much of the Archive you were able to purify, and a certain number of stars are needed to unlock further Archives, so replaying Archives to get more stars becomes a necessity to gather the required stars (fortunately they stack, no matter how many attempts you make or whether you switch between control styles).

A sample of gameplay.
The visuals of Child of Eden are just stunning. Even while you are trying to purify Eden, you can still look around, and the levels, or Archives, are truly a sight to behold. Each Archive is themed a certain way, one of which is based around human achievements in technology, each of them providing a unique experience that you may end up revisiting again out of your own volition. This game has perhaps some of the most amazing visuals I have seen in any music-based game, and there’s actually a mode you can unlock after completing the game where you can go through each Archive without having to worry about any enemies. The music itself, which comes from Mizuguchi’s own virtual band Genki Rockets (of which Lumi is one of the virtual members, played by Rachel Rhodes from the band in the game in live-action), is also very good, and actually somewhat memorable on top of that. Each song fits their respective Archives rather well and when you purify a virus it creates more music that adds further to the music; in a rather nice touch, which took me a while to notice, the controller actually vibrates in time with the beat of the song being played, which adds to the overall immersion even more with how subtle it is. While I haven’t heard any of Genki Rockets’ music before (they have two albums at the time of this writing), hearing the band’s songs in Child of Eden has made me curious as to what more of their songs are like.

The game also has its fair share of unlockable content, and it’s worth the effort. Depending on your performance through an Archive, you can unlock concept art related to the game, which you can view upon completing the campaign. I always find it interesting to look at concept art related to a product, be it a movie, game, or toyline, and the art viewable here does not disappoint; even the concept art is a visual splendor. You can also unlock previews of music videos for Genki Rockets songs, including “Heavenly Star” and “Breeze” from what I managed to unlock, as well as different visual/sound effects for the game and different difficulty settings (among them the aforementioned mode without enemies). Upon completing the final Archive, an additional Archive is unlocked as a Challenge Mode, in which you must try to survive waves of enemies for as long as possible (this, incidentally, can also give you extra stars). When you complete an Archive, you also get a choice of what to add to Lumi’s Garden (the main menu screen), regardless of your star rating. These options are different for each Archive, and when you successfully complete an Archive an additional time(s), you have the option to add something different or add an upgraded version of something you already chose.

Child of Eden is a game really worth playing that goes out of its way to make it an unforgettable experience that stands the test of time. The visuals are breathtaking, complimented by catchy music, and the motion controls work really well for it. Fans of Lumines and Rez will be able to enjoy this game, as will fans of music-based games and/or rail shooters. If you play the PS3 version and have a Move controller, I would suggest using that in place of a regular controller, and if you do I would also suggest taking a break every so often because, even with the game’s fairly short length, your arm will get tired after a while.

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