Friday, June 24, 2011

Review: Child of Eden

Child of Eden (2011)
Developer: Q Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 3X-Box 360
Induction Date: 11/04/2014, 06/22/2011

Child of Eden is the sequel to Rez and just like its predecessor, it is a blending of two genres: music/rhythm action and rail shooter. Unlike Rez however, you no longer see a representation of a ship on the screen and instead, you are given a first person view of the action as you are taken through one scripted stage after another, shooting down anything that can be destroyed by moving a target cursor around the game screen. You are given access to two weapon types: the lock-on laser and the rapid fire shots and some of the enemies are immune to one of those attacks. Enemy bullets must be destroyed using the rapid fire shots, making for an interesting weapon switching dynamic. Some of the enemies will drop off two type of spheres: one that increases your health and another that grant you the "Euphoria" attack, which is a much fancier name for a super bomb. Though you can lock on and shoot the enemies with careless abandonment, locking on to the maximum of 8 targets and then releasing the laser on the appropriate beat of the background music will grant score multipliers - understanding how this works will not only improve your high scores but it will also provide much pleasure to your audio-visual senses as you groove along to the hypnotic music tracks from game designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi's own band, Genki Rockets, that are remixed beyond recognition.

The landscape is less Lumi and a bit too much Eden.

This game can be played using the regular 360 controller or the Kinect. Each provides a unique experience for the gamer: the conventional controller provides more precise targeting and the rumble feedback while the Kinect provides a level of immersion and responsiveness that is out of this world. Q Entertainment is very smart to separate the leaderboards between the two control schemes and though you may prefer one control method over the other - I wholeheartedly agree with the label on the game cover that the game plays "better with Kinect" - the division between the two means that you will play a slightly different game depending on your "controller" of choice. Now that I have gone over the gameplay mechanics, I want to focus the rest of this review on the conceptual design of this game that actually made it less spectacular than Rez. The game's story is vague enough that it can be interpreted in so many ways and I am reading this game like Rez because of the similarities between the two titles. Basically, a group of scientists in the future is trying to create a human persona within a vast matrix of knowledge database known as Eden. Now why would they want to do that? Didn't they learn from their past mistakes? Eden gained self-awareness in Rez and as soon as that happened, it began collapsing within itself because it cannot identity its own existence within the confine of that which created it. One would think that the people involved in "Project Lumi" would know that the same could happen when another sentient program is activated within the matrix. If you are not familiar with who Lumi is, she is this fictional character of the first human to be born in space and she is the muse for Genki Rockets where all of the songs they composed are supposedly written and performed by Lumi in the future and are transmitted to present day earth. Apparently, Lumi is such a significant figure during her lifetime that they proceed to store her memories in Eden when she died while her body is preserved somewhere - which is fine but why would they want to recreate her? Isn't it cruel to provide self-awareness to a "creature" based on the memories of someone who was already dead a very, very long time ago? In this game, when Lumi started to emerge within Eden, she was immediately attacked by "a virus of unknown origin" or as I see it, she was overwhelmed by the perplexing dilemma of her sudden existence.

Are we splitting atoms or just splitting cells today?

I think it is a mistake for Tetsuya Mizuguchi to revolve this game around Lumi because it turns the game into another experimental Genki Rockets concert instead of something a lot more profound. The 5 stages that represent the different levels of Lumi's persona don't really make much sense compared to how coherent the stages were in Rez. Things are less emotional this time around though there are still several brilliant moments involving Lumi's images dancing away in ecstasy pulsing on top of the game's bosses and these moments are definitely quite effective and touching. But the "person" you are trying to save isn't really Lumi even though she has all of Lumi's memories, which well, makes her... Lumi. Oh, this is depressing. The final stage in the game's story is also highly disappointing because the brilliant story revelation that was used in Rez was nowhere to be found here. You basically get multiple boss battles leading up to the finale and everything feels a bit anti-climactic. I would always cry, even to this day, whenever I go through a full gameplay session of Rez but I didn't drop a single tear playing Child of Eden. I did come close to doing so however when the phoenix symbolism was used in one of the game's stages: a rather dramatic statement about Lumi's revival within Eden.

I would gladly pay to have this as a screen saver for my Personal Computer.

Child of Eden is an extremely good-looking game and just like Rez, its striking "digital world" visual style will remain graphically stunning forever. The soundtrack is strong too though they are more melodic and calmer than the ones in its predecessor. The game contains a lot of things that you can unlock and that will keep you playing it for a long time but you will likely be hooked by the gameplay by itself that will take a massive amout of repeat play to truly master. Or you can just choose to enjoy playing it over and over again as a way to unwind at the end of the day since there is an option where you can play through the game without dying. The stage selection menu or "Lumi's Garden" is an aural wonderland but to fully utilize it, you have to unlock creatures to occupy the garden with by playing the game and there are five different varieties of these gardens. Overall, there is definitely a lot to do in the game on top of its addictive gameplay. The Child of Eden may not be as perfect as her mother, but she is most definitely very beautiful in her own right.

RATING: 4 out of 5

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