Child of Eden by UbiSoft review

Psychedelic shoot-'em-up with Kinect support
Photo of Child of Eden by UbiSoft
£39.99

An abstract and trippy rhythm-shooter which is beautifully presented, Child of Eden is an aesthetic and musical joy, albeit a rather short-lived one. The Kinect control works perfectly too, and adds another dimension to the blasting experience as you swipe and dismiss multiple viruses with your hand. In short, this is another good reason to get Kinect-ed with your Xbox.

The Kinect has thus far been great for casual gamers, with a plethora of sports, dance and fitness-related titles coming out at launch. More hardcore gaming types haven’t really had their interest piqued by the likes of Dance Central, but a number of core games are set to emerge for the Xbox motion-control system. There’s Ryse, a bloody-looking Roman combat game from Crytek, and of course Star Wars Kinect, both of which are eagerly-awaited future prospects.

Rez-urrection
But the first highly anticipated core title is here right now – although Child of Eden isn’t a Kinect exclusive, as it can also be played with a normal controller. Created by Tetsuya Mizuguchi, Eden is the follow-up to Rez, both games involving a trip through psychedelic virtual realms blasting abstract viruses to the beat of pumping music.

Essentially it’s an on-rails 3D shoot-’em-up, but a beautiful-looking and slickly produced one. Whether playing with a normal controller or the Kinect, the controls are laudably simple, although we preferred and spent the majority of the review using the motion controls.

Your right hand controls a blue reticule that can be swept over up to eight targets to lock them in, then when flicked forward your hand dispatches a powerful projectile at all targets simultaneously. Switch to your left hand and the reticule turns red, emitting a constant stream of less powerful tracer fire.

This rapid fire mode is essential, though, as it’s the only way to harm deadly purple viruses, or blow away their incoming missiles. The idea is to strategically switch between the two weapons, because the blue laser is ideal for racking up score as “octo-locks” – taking out the maximum eight enemies in one strike – accumulate more points.

Neo meets Tom Cruise
It’s difficult to describe just how exhilarating it is to hurtle down a pulsing green Matrix-like tunnel, swiping your open palm dexterously across multiple spinning diamond-shaped enemy craft, then chopping your hand forward to dispatch them. You feel like a cross between Keanu Reeves and Tom Cruise – Neo meets Minority Report in some kind of Zen and kung-fu influenced shoot-’em-up.

And the really clever twist is that to maximise their score, players needs to time their volleys of fire to the beat of the superb techno/trance/ambient tunes. Locking the maximum eight targets and destroying them on the beat of the music increases the score multiplier in steps – but should you miss a beat, the multiplier resets.

Letting rip with a blast of fire bang on the pulse of the bass adds an extra thrill to the shoot-’em-up action, not to mention a sense of satisfaction when you repeatedly get the timing right. Concentrating on aiming, watching out for incoming fire and keeping in time to the music all add up to a hugely absorbing, yet not overwhelming, challenge – although Child of Eden is pretty tough on the novice player to begin with.

No checkpoints please, we’re hardcore
After the first introductory level, we found ourselves having to fly quite a number of attempts to finish the succeeding realms, each of which lasts around ten to 15 minutes. Come a cropper and you have to start right from the beginning of the level again – there are no auto-save checkpoints here. Some sections are pretty tricky until you figure out the correct tactics, and other parts are just difficult because of the sheer amount of swirling stuff on the screen.

That’s just as well, really, because Child of Eden’s main weakness is the short nature of the game. While there are only five levels, each of them is a work of art, a total treat for the senses. From the quality music and haunting female vocals, through to the cubes of whirling multicoloured blocks and huge gem-studded electric blue whales orbiting glowing planets in space, every level is aesthetically lavish and differently themed to the last.

Due to the difficulty, the completion time for each level isn’t just ten minutes, because you’ll be playing some for a while to get past them. To put the overall play time in perspective, it took us six hours to beat the five levels. However, we went slowly and were trying to maximise our score, which made matters trickier. A player who just whips through the worlds not worrying about score multiplier building might well finish it a lot faster.

Brevity bugbear
So yes, there is a longevity issue here – although once you’ve beaten Eden at the default difficulty level, a harder setting is unlocked to challenge further. We also felt the pull to go back to previous levels to improve our timing, better our scores and attempt to crack the top ranks of the online leaderboard. Less avid Edeners might not feel quite so drawn, however, and the game could be a fairly short-lived experience for them.

But experience Eden you should, particularly via Kinect, which plays without a hint of lag and immerses you in the colourful virtual world so much more. Even if you only rent it, this is a luscious kaleidoscopic swirl of a shoot-’em-up that should be sampled, and another good reason to go motion-controlled on the Xbox.

Company: UbiSoft

Website: http://child-of-eden.uk.ubi.com/

Positives
  • A visual and sonic delight; Kinect controls are excellent and immersive.
Negative
  • With only five levels, less avid players may find the experience brief.

Verdict

An abstract and trippy rhythm-shooter which is beautifully presented, Child of Eden is an aesthetic and musical joy, albeit a rather short-lived one. The Kinect control works perfectly too, and adds another dimension to the blasting experience as you swipe and dismiss multiple viruses with your hand. In short, this is another good reason to get Kinect-ed with your Xbox.