When did you last play an on-rails shooter? Probably the last time you went bowling and fed a Time Crisis cabinet coins until your lane was ready i expect. The genre may have been eclipsed by more sophisticated games however it still exists and has even recently made inroads towards a comeback. Dead Space: Extraction and House of the Dead: Overkill are recent entries which, buoyed by the current trend of motion control, have attempted to give this forgotten game-type another shot.
Q entertainment are no strangers to on-rails shooters, they have been creating increasingly psychedelic shooting galleries since back in the era of the Dreamcast with the critically acclaimed Rez which was re-released on Xbox Live Arcade as Rez HD.
10 years have passed since the original release and this spiritual successor is able to use all of today's technology to fully realise the synesthesia based gameplay touted back in 2001 where as many senses as possible are engaged; combining sound, sight, vibration and now (with Kinect) motion to bring the game into this generation.
The game revolves around Lumi, the first woman born in space who is understandably somewhat of a celebrity. Upon her death she is eventually immortalised through the Internet (or as it is now known, Eden) however viruses threaten to corrupt her and they must be purified in order to set her free.
The epileptic warning presented on loading hints at the level of intense visual assault that awaits the viewer. Each level has a theme anchored down by a distinct visual style. An evolution level starts with ethereal single cell targets which throughout the level grow into increasingly more complex organisms before culminating in a boss encounter with a gem encrusted space Phoenix.
It can be a little overwhelming, especially on first glance, onlookers may find the action on the screen spectacular yet daunting; with further exposure it becomes clear, emphasis is placed on colour coding enemies to ensure it's easier to make sense of the insanity unfolding on the screen. This helps the player create some order from the chaos so they don’t get overwhelmed from the start and miss out on some stunning stages at the end of each level.
While it may present itself like a straightforward (if intense) shooter and can even be played as such, the audio design of the game dictates that the best way to approach the experience is as a rhythm game. The lock-on mechanics are intrinsically linked to the music, releasing a volley of shots to the beat is the basis of high scoring runs, destroying enemies bleeds different sounds which subtly enhance the music and the alternate firing modes allowing the user to influence the soundtrack. Once the mechanics are familiar it's easy to find yourself experimenting with the music, playing with the rhythm and frequency of the snare drums as rapid fire hits damage the boss, while switching weapons brings cymbal hits which crash once you destroy incoming projectiles. The spectactular soundtrack provided by the Genki Rockets (who are produced by Q Entertainment's Tetsuya Mizuguchi and fronted by Lumi herself) is an integral part of the experience which not only forms a critical component to the gameplay but allows the player a modicum of control over the soundscape.
Child of Eden truly has to be witnessed to appreciated, the visuals and audio are specifically designed to illicit certain reactions; from the frenetic pumping Matrix level to the relaxing serenity of Beauty. Its ability to evoke such feeling is both impressive and indicative of how the audio visual elements of this title are just as critical as the gameplay itself.
Navigating through Eden requires competency with the game's few controls, using the controller enemies are highlighted by holding down “A” and locking onto 8 targets at a time with the reticule controlled by the left stick. Releasing “A” fires your shots in sequence and if done on the beat rewards players with a “Perfect” notification and an ever increasing multiplier. The left trigger fires the new rapid-fire weapon which is most effective when used on purple enemies and incoming projectiles. This is the one significant change to the gameplay, as switching between the two weapons and prioritising enemies based on colour is an essential skill needed to survive.
Rez alumni will be able to jump right in, however the concepts and mechanics will take longer for newcomers to adjust to. Levels slowly ease you in as you learn the patterns and colours to look out for, but once you pass the first few minutes it quickly escalates to a healthy challenge. If it proves too much there is an alternate control scheme available which those without any previous Rez preconceptions may find more user friendly and intuitive.
Child of Eden is one of the most anticipated titles that is compatible with the Kinect sensor. The target lock on ability is controlled by moving your right hand over the eight targets which can be destroyed by pushing forward towards the screen, switching to your left hand gives you the rapid fires shots which complete your arsenal. Throwing your hands up together Mexican wave style uses your bombs, destroying everything on screen for when it all gets a little too much.
The box itself boasts that it is “Better with the Kinect sensor”, it's certainly different. The difficulty is scaled back greatly to compensate for the loss of fidelity in the controls, your reticule is bigger, there are less enemies and those that fire projectiles fire far less than when using the standard controls. There are advantages to using the motion controls, it is one of the best implementations of the technology so far, flicking your hand towards the screen to destroy enemies or switching between weapons does feel satisfying, together with the audio visual aspects it does an arguably better job of engaging the player in the gameplay than the standard controls. Prolonged sessions with Kinect can become tedious and the lack of fine control may leave some frustrated and ultimately returning to the standard control scheme.
Re-playability and the dynamic nature of the experience are important aspects for Child of Eden, it has clearly been designed so that multiple play throughs of the levels are not only preferable but necessary to complete the experience and unlock all the content. Those who don't place such significance on this replayablilty are sure to be disappointed at the short time in which the core content can be exhausted. Veteran Rez players have the real possibility of viewing the credits after a single sitting lasting as little as 90 minutes; with the unlocked option of a hard mode available for those looking for more of a challenge. Completing the 5 core levels unlocks a new archive for score attack mode and levels can be replayed to get better grades and gain access to art and other unlockables. The most rewarding reason for replay is to obtain new visual filters and audio sets. They completely change the way the game sounds and looks, and while it doesn't completely refresh the experience, it certainly makes it more enjoyable to play the same levels over again.
- Stunning Audio/Visual Components
- Excellent use of Kinect
- Very short singleplayer
- Can be overwhelming for newcomers
- Expensive RRP for limited content
Child Of Eden Xbox 360 Review
“Greater than the sum of its parts” is often used to explain away the value of something you can't quite put your finger on. This defense holds some merit here, as the individuality of this title created from the on-screen vistas and malleable audio landscape, combined with a new control scheme, does create an attractive package. Were it an arcade title, even a premium one which extended the limit for the price of arcade games as marquee titles have in the past then its brevity may have acceptable . However regardless of how spectacular or emotive it may be, Child of Eden sadly struggles to justify its full retail price with the amount of content on offer.
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.