In the beginning, there was a game called Rez. And lo, for it begat Child of Eden. Stace Harman looks at the family resemblance, plays the Kinect version and speaks to creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi.
When recounting time spent with Mizuguchi’s Child of Eden, it’s difficult not to embark on a verbal helter-skelter. Phrases such as ‘digital florid beauty,' ‘glistening globular luminescence’ and other ludicrous adjective atrocities that can only make sense once you’ve played the game, must be put to one side.
There’s a similar temptation when attempting to describe the aural impact of Eden; it’s futile to say that, at times, the soundtrack is punctuated by a pleasingly simple monotonic plinkity-plonk, whilst at others it’s enhanced by a bass you can feel in your stomach. It just makes you sound a bit daft.
But if the feelings and language Child of Eden initially provokes threaten to make those that describe it sound like philosophical poets, then simply stating that the game is the ‘spiritual successor to Rez’ is to go to the other extreme. In fact, it does the experience such a disservice that let’s pretend for a second that we know nothing about Rez, and instead talk about Child of Eden as a standalone entity.
Back to basics
At its most basic level, Child of Eden is an on-rails shooter. It feels churlish to break it down to such crude mechanics, but that’s the truth of it. Using Kinect, Move or a standard controller, you guide a target reticule in attempts to purify each of the game's archives - five standard and one hidden - of a virus that is threatening to corrupt the entire system. Moving through themed levels, such as the pulsating deep space of Matrix and the crystalline garden of Beauty, your aim is to rid each archive of as much of the virus as you can, using a combination of three weapons.
No PS3 builds were present at this hands-on event, nor was vibration enabled when using a standard controller, and so the focus was very much on how the game performs with Kinect.
Using your right hand to pass the reticule over targets, ‘tags’ them. A flick of the wrist destroys all currently-tagged targets thus enabling you to chain several kills together and build a score multiplier. Switching to control with your left hand deploys a weaker but constantly firing laser that is used for chipping away at larger enemies and for picking off incoming projectiles that decrease your life force. The final weapon is a smart bomb called Euphoria and is triggered by throwing both hands in the air.
The reticule has a satisfying weight to it and feels a little like it’s moving through some viscous matter as you guide it around the screen. You soon become engrossed in your objective, juggling your weapons by swapping from one hand to the other, occasionally interspersed with Euphoria’s Mexican-wave-for-one movement.
To bystanders it looks almost like you’re conducting an electronic orchestra, rather than playing a game – in fact, as a bystander it’s mesmerizingly pleasant to observe someone playing Child of Eden as it affords you the chance to take in the spectacle without having to concentrate on targeting the vitriolic virus.
The Kinect controls worked well enough, although there were times when the reticule momentarily twitched as the camera tracked the movement of one hand whilst the other was introduced to the screen. Despite the vibration being absent on this build, I actually preferred playing with the controller, where each weapon is assigned to a different button and there’s no interruption as you switch from tagging targets to intercepting enemy fire with the auto-firing laser. Also, I’m a little lazy; playing with a standard controller meant I could sit down.
Whichever control method you choose to use, it’s worth making sure that any spare controllers that you have to hand are secured, in one way or another, about your person, as the game has been designed to provide two channels of vibration feedback for up to four controllers.
Speaking to the man
Sitting down after the hands-on session with Mizuguchi, I asked him where the inspiration for Child of Eden had come from.
“When I looked back at the work we’d done on Rez I felt that it had very simple graphics, simple sound and that I wanted to make something more organic,” he began.
“I wanted to create something with more emotional impact, and it took me a very long time to decide what to do next. [Child of Eden] came about for the same reason that my work Genki Rockets came about: both are very much for me. I need to do these things.”
Genki Rockets is the band of musicians that provide the music for Child of Eden. They’ve also put on a number of shows incorporating sound and hologram-like light effects. It’s worth noting that Q Entertainment is intending to release the Child of Eden soundtrack, though whether that will be as part of special edition of the game or as a standalone download is yet to be decided. Mizuguchi suggests that more details on this will be released via the game’s official Facebook page.
Mizuguchi was less expansive about the reasons for the lack of a PS3 build at this hands-on event, saying only that Q Entertainment is “exploring the options” for Sony’s console. This lead me to blurt out a thought to Mizuguchi that I’d had after playing the game for just a few minutes: "This game would look stunning in 3D."
His response was a magnanimous smile, but no comment other than to say that they are currently “working to make sure that Move controls are properly implemented.” Given the relatively niche market for 3D TVs at the moment, 3D support would benefit the few rather than the many, but it would give the game significant scale factor if and when 3D TVs become more mainstream.
Back to the bombast
It’s an oft repeated, hackneyed question, but having spent time with Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s latest project and spoken to the man himself about the concepts and motivations behind Child of Eden, it’s a question that I expect to see crop up in reviews in the coming months and again in discussions after the game’s release: can games be art? Based on what I’ve seen so far, it’s a perfectly legitimate question to ask.
Child of Eden is released on 360 and on June 14 in the US and June 17 in Europe. A PS3 date is unconfirmed.