Review: Child of Eden

By on June 26, 2011

Maybe I just don’t get it.

Yes, Child of Eden is a visual experience very few, if any, games can offer. The music is excellent; it’ll definitely make you want to do your best Night at the Roxbury head nodding impression. And yes, it’s fairly fun to play.

But is it this oh-my-god-go-buy-it-now experience the Internet is saying it is? I’m not entirely convinced it is. For the record, I didn’t get a chance to play it with motion controls, because I’m currently Kinect-less. I’ve also never played Rez (PS2), Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s other musical shooter, so I didn’t get any sort of nostalgic feeling while playing this. So these are my thoughts on the game from playing it with a physical controller and not being very much aware of what Rez was like.

Child of Eden
Developed by: Q Entertainment
Published by: Ubisoft
Release: Out Now
MSRP: $49.99

Right off the bat, I’ll tell you that story is meaningless in this game; you won’t enjoy it any more or any less because of it. The premise, which is basically a way to set up the psychedelic visuals you’ll be ogling, is that you have to save a girl, Lumi, who is somehow trapped in the Internet (now called Eden). Lumi is portrayed by a young, slim Asian woman in a silky white dress, and you’ll see her face invade your screen during the final moments of each of the game’s levels. That’s really all Lumi has to do with what you’ll experience. And Eden is apparently a very space-like place, peppered with shiny organisms that look like squids, whales, octopi, humans, giant birds – you get the idea.

Your mission is to shoot and destroy these shiny organisms to “purify” Eden and save Lumi. How do you purify these organisms? By holding down A, you can target up eight objects at a time. Releasing A will cause you to shoot out what I like to call purification beams that will destroy or whittle down the health of whatever was targeted. The left trigger acts like a more standard “machine gun” kind of weapon, which is used mainly to attack enemies that are purple in color. The controls are easy-to-use and responsive, so pretty much anyone will be able to pick up and play this one.

The real challenge in the game isn’t necessarily shooting at your enemies, but shooting at your enemies in tune with the music. You’re encouraged to release the A button so that enemies get purified to the sound of the beat. Locking on to eight enemies and releasing your purification beam in tune results in a “Perfect” multiplier, and this is how you’ll likely rack up the high scores. It’s extremely rewarding when you do perform a “Perfect,” as it actually feels like you’re, you know, doing it right. My only problem with this system — and maybe it’s because I’m just a dude with no rhythm — was it’s not always easily distinguishable when to release your beam so that it coincides with the beat of the music. More often than not, I found myself getting a “Perfect” release when I really felt like I had no business trying to be in sync with the techno blasting in certain levels; I was just trying to clear my screen of remaining enemies. Other times, after nailing “Perfects,” I’d try to continue going for them at the same pace and beat, but fail — as if what was previously considered “to the beat” had changed.

It’s a small gripe and one I honestly think someone with a more musical ear would easily overcome. Besides, I had more fun just experiencing the creative visuals in each level: one of my favorites being what appeared to be two humans racing against each other, another that seemed like you were underwater in the deep sea, surrounded by squid, stingrays and whales. The visuals combined with the thumping techno music just feel good.

Once a level is completed, you go to a score screen, where you’re told your purification percentage for your level, the time you spent in it, your overall score and the amount of stars you earned. The most stars I ever got on any level were three out of five. I once got two stars for a level I felt like I owned; so, yes, the game is easy to learn, but very difficult to master. To unlock more levels, you need to accumulate stars, which means that you’ll more than likely have to play the already unlocked levels more than once, something I didn’t really like from a flow perspective, as I think I would’ve been more attracted to keep playing the game if I knew that at the end of every level, there’d be a new experience to play next. Instead, I found myself playing some levels two, three, up to four times over just to unlock something new. It may have been this minor annoyance that eventually caused me to stop being so interested in popping in my Child of Eden disc anymore. I finally unlocked four out of the five levels, but I no longer wanted to keep playing — not because I didn’t enjoy the game, but because I really didn’t want to keep replaying stages; I wanted to keep stimulating my eyes and ears with something new.

The Good

- Beautiful visuals.
- Heart-pumping, head-nodding techno music.
- Simple, easy-to-learn controls.

The Bad

- The game forces you to replay its stages several times to unlock new ones, which is what ultimately turned me away from it.
- Sometimes seems to have its own idea of what “to the beat” means.
- Only five stages is a bit disappointing, but it’s something that I predict will be addressed with DLC.

The Final Word

Child of Eden is fun, but not fun enough to warrant several playthroughs of its stages — and then there are only five stages in all. It’s somewhat of a tease, really, because these stages are just absolutely gorgeous visually, and, like I said before, the music will keep your head nodding as you channel your inner Will Ferrel. Maybe it’s just me, but the game really didn’t seem to be fair with what my brain was telling me was “in tune” with the beat. And I really didn’t appreciate being forced to replay levels just to unlock new ones. It’s as if they knew they had a casual game on their hands, but wanted to add a “hardcore” element to it. It’s unfortunate, because this is a great game for that Kinect-owning casual crowd, but I can definitely see some of those folks being turned off by that. Still, I must recommend this title to music lovers or just gamers who want to experience something different and take a break from the shooters, brawlers and hack-n-slashes our consoles are overly saturated with. And if you can, play this with Kinect — it seemed to me like it’d be even more fun with the camera peripheral than with the standard 360 controller. Don’t expect this to be an earth-shattering experience, though. It’s just a fun one.

3/5

This review is based on a review copy from Ubisoft provided to Gamertag Radio.

Jonathan "butt3r" Davila

About Jonathan "butt3r" Davila

Many words can describe Jonathan Davila (aka butt3r). Male is one of them. There are probably others too. He is a superhero blessed with the power to type consecutive words at unflagging speeds, albeit incoherently. He also loves the crap out of video games and basketball, while not being particularly good at either. While he’s written about music for magazines, and performed journalism for a major metropolitan newspaper, nothing brings him the amount of joy that writing about video games does. Unfortunately for you, he does that on this website fairly often.