Tetsuya Mizuguchi is one of gaming’s elite orchestrators of sublime synesthesia, seamlessly blending an immaculately smooth playability with an attractive, absorbing music-propelled environment. His Rez is not only near the top of my list of genre-defining rhythm games, but among my favorite titles of the early aughts. Child of Eden arrives a decade after Rez’s initial release, acting as a kind of spiritual successor to that game while also incorporating some slightly connected storyline influence from Mizuguchi’s other noteworthy Lumines projects. While Child of Eden was available for Xbox 360 and its Kinect peripheral back in June of this year, the PlayStation 3 version adds some significant enhancements, namely a 3D capability, as well as a $20 price drop that should definitely entice owners of Sony’s current-gen system to invest in this intoxicatingly beautiful yet all-too-short experience.
Child of Eden is an extremely cool, incredibly polished rush of a game, and thus, as is the case with other aesthetic-whore titles of this nature, tacks on a needlessly strange yet relatively paper-thin narrative that serves nothing more than to vaguely explain why all the crazy shit on screen is happening in such a precarious manner. Wrap your head around this: At some point in Earth’s distant future, the countless great minds of the world decide to establish a relocated Internet largely within the deepest reaches of outer space, converting it into a sort of massive starlit library for all the knowledge of the universe to be stored. This database is dubbed Eden, and confined at the center of this multilayered, rainbowy cataclysm of circulating brainwave particles is Lumi, the first offspring produced inside this new, intergalactic file cabinet of supposed sanctity. Of course, with such drastic societal changes comes an evident corruption, and that’s basically what happens here. The sanctuary of Eden is overrun with abstract viruses that take the form of floating isometric shapes and attach themselves to, in one level, most memorably, gigantic sea creatures like manta rays and blue whales which you must purge on your way to save Lumi from being compromised with the help of your galactic weaponry all set to the pulsating beat of fine electronically arranged arias.
If you already own an Xbox 360, the Kinect-versus-PlayStation Move debate could be a point of discussion when ultimately deciding which incarnation of Child of Eden to go with. Having played both, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that the Kinect responds only fractionally better than the Move (although the Move’s wand is no slouch, and benefits substantially from its accompanying vibrations), but the PlayStation 3’s irreproachably designed DualShock3 offers a much more fluid, intuitive trip through Child of Eden’s down-the-rabbit-hole adventure than the Xbox 360’s standard controller. This being a review for the PlayStaion 3 version, whether you decide to play with the Move or the DualShock3, the gameplay of Child of Eden is, across the board, quite easy to jump into; ironically, advantageously, the game’s lean main mode doesn’t allot enough time to tire of the potentially repetitive control scheme (all but synchronized button-pressing on the DualShock3, and only moderately more elegant diagonal waves and wrist flicks with the Move). Defeating enemies is as simplistic as something like another successfully brief on-rails shooter, Star Fox 64 3D: There’s a rapid-fire Gatling-type gun, a multi-lock eight-way laser beam, and, per usual, an energized bomb that vanquishes the bulk of your on-screen adversaries.
As Child of Eden is inherently a rhythm game (with a thoroughly scintillating soundtrack scored by Mizuguchi’s own Genki Rockets), each round of opponents must be eliminated within a specific time set to achieve a corresponding “Perfect” or “Good” rating. Each of the Child of Eden’s five distinctively themed levels (Matrix, Evolution, Passion, etc.), called Archives, climaxes with a corresponding top-tier eye-candy boss battle that does well to highlight the astounding visual design of its surroundings (one Archive boasts a final act involving cascading planetary bodies slowly evolving into a pair of running man constellations). Nothing in this game is too outwardly challenging, though sometimes enemy fire can camouflage alongside your own resulting in some moments of WTF? damage-taking. Something of a learning curve does exist: Unlocking Child of Eden’s wealth of bonus content, including a decent number of objective trophies and a stunning sixth Archive, can offer an advanced degree of difficulty, and such extra achievements warrant the time it takes to play through the game post an initiatory completion.
Although Child of Eden’s very limited length leaves something to be desired, its overwhelmingly original artistic style and intense core design cultivation conclusively amount to a status of gameplay bliss that is arduous to come by. In what is perhaps layman’s terms, Child of Eden can be likened to the video game equivalent of frequenting a glow stick-laden rave that quickly turns into a full-scale riot, yet the DJ is still rocking out voltaic jams and the cops never show up to shut it down.