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Child of Eden Review

Review; Feb. 6, 2012; Channels: Video Games; By Kyle James Hovanec
This shooter has an identity crisis but in such a good, trippy way.

Child of Eden is a difficult game to describe. At some points, it feels like a simple on-rails shooter. At others, it feels like a time-attack shooter, forcing you to gather as many points as possible in the allotted time. Sometimes it doesn't feel like a game at all, but rather an interactive music video/drug trip in which context doesn't matter, but like a music video, the emotional energy takes center stage.

Child of Eden

Child of Eden is all of these things. It is an entirely unique and beautiful game that straddles the line between an interactive multimedia experience and something that goes beyond the “do these tasks to win the game” mentality that video games have espoused since their creation. Winning in this game is still a goal, but it isn't as necessary as the experience you'll have getting there.

Child of Eden's gameplay is simple. Using either a traditional Xbox 360 controller or the Kinect sensor (or a PlayStation Move controller for the PS3), your goal is to simply shoot at the screen, obliterating enemies before they get you. It's a simple arcade style that works well and provides a unique experience depending on your controller of choice.

The Kinect sensor allows a nearly 1:1 ratio of movement with your hands. The lock-on fire is controlled by moving your right hand over a target and flicking your wrist. Your left hand controls a rapid fire function that is more useful for dealing with quick enemies or projectiles. If you prefer to use only one hand, an alternate control scheme in which you clap your hands together to change firing modes is available. Both modes also feature an option called "Euphoria" that involves raising both of your arms and bringing them down to release a barrage of lasers, clearing the entire screen of enemies.

Child of Eden Screenshots
Click the image to view game screenshots

The traditional controller is best used for score attacks -- this is for the player who wants to get five-star rankings. It requires an incredible amount of accuracy. The controller was actually much more accurate in attaining high scores.  Yet, the Kinect sensor excels at providing immersion and a connectivity to the game that a controller cannot even come close to offering. The Kinect's mantra, “You are the controller,” has never been more apparent as your arms seemingly and effortlessly fire at enemies and, in essence, control the tempo of the soundtrack. 

The music and sound effects are integral components of the game that go beyond simple immersion. Each laser you fire and every enemy you destroy leaves an echoing musical chord as a reminder of each death and each round fired. These sounds contribute to the background music of each stage and change both the beat and tempo depending on how well you're killing enemies, how long you're taking to kill them, which weapons you're using, and how well you're surviving.

By doing this, you're in essence not only shooting at enemies, but also acting as a background DJ, changing and remixing the beat depending on your performance. It's another way that a simple arcade on-rails shooter is providing even more depth and ambiance.

Child of Eden Screenshots

Finally, the levels themselves are as varied and unique as the mechanics of the game. Each of the game's five stages (six after beating it) provide a different visual theme for each level. One stage may be a jungle-inspired environment, and another may be an open vacuum with meteors and falling stars peppering the horizon. At the end of each stage, a boss awaits you, usually a much bigger abstract creature you'll engage in a prolonged battle that ends with you earning your ranking and moving on to the next level. 

While all of the environments may be themed, they resemble the real world only on the most basic level. The art design behind each level is abstract -- trees may dot a landscape but with a neon-drenched color scheme that pulses to the beat. Your enemies vaguely resemble insects and underwater creatures, moving with the fluidity of fish, but like the environmental objects, they pulse with the bass and flash with a neon veneer. It's Planet Earth meets Tron.

Child of Eden isn't a video game to be played, beaten, and put back on the shelf. It is an experience, a marriage of music and gameplay, lights and sounds. It's a game that is hard to describe, and yet you'll always remember long after you finish playing. In the category of "games as art," Child of Eden is a strong contender and something that is entirely unique from anything else currently available.

*Editor's Note: This review is based on the Xbox 360 version with a Kinect sensor and Xbox 360 controller.


Review Score

Everyone 10+

Titles rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) have content that may be suitable for ages 10 and older. Titles in this category may contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.

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