Child of Eden Review (Xbox360)

If you aren’t into jumpy-up-and-down sports, stroking virtual pets or pretending you’re training for the UFC, Kinect will have had as much impact as Joe McElderry’s pop career. For those who like something a little more exciting, Child of Eden waltzes in with the confidence of designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi in full bloom. The aging-process has been kind to previous title Rez, and indeed, to the gameplay Mizuguchi loves to experiment with. In fact, with the introduction of Kinect, Child of Eden takes everything that was entertaining about its spiritual predecessor and naturally evolves it into a free-flowing and thoroughly engaging experience.

Just like Rez, there is little point approaching this game looking forward to an epic story. The Internet (now known as Eden) becomes infected and Lumi, a human life form, is in serious danger. That’s about all you need to know before getting ready for a spot of psychedelic spring cleaning. As you dive into the opening level, everything may be a little overwhelming. It’s easy to lose focus when so many colours litter the screen, and a tutorial constantly breaks up your first few minutes of play, but once you’re used to how things work, Child of Eden leaves quite an impact. Most of this impact hits your senses hard, as Mizuguchi pushes his Rez formula even further with visuals that are bursting with life and creativity.

Enemies who change colour are often the most dangerous, and need to be dealt with carefully

The real brilliance comes from how the game forces you to play. Utilising Kinect, your right hand is used to highlight a handful of enemies or attack points in one go. When you’re ready to fire, a flick of the wrist will damage all of the areas you previously outlined, as you quickly identify where the next targets are. As with any shape-shifting virus that threatens to destroy the history of the world, players need to be wary of purple spores that litter the screen, as they’re extremely hazardous. The only way to defend against these pests is by using your left hand to fire automatic shots at them. Purple is indeed the colour that indicates danger throughout Child of Eden, as often, you’ll have to clean up enemies before they can be effectively despatched. Rest assured that, if any purple foes float onto screen, you can eliminate their threat by using the technique for defence. A few stages in, the game will begin to punish if you continually use the wrong kind of shot on the wrong enemy; a fact reinforced by a deep thud that signals you’re failing at your task.

While it may not feel natural at first, playing Child of Eden is remarkably simple. It’s a shame there’s only five levels to work through, as by the time you reach the end it’s likely you’ll be wanting more. The sound is as pivotal to the experience as the visuals, and often indicates a subtle change in a levels design. Genki Rockets provide the tinkles and crashes that breathe extra life into each section, as Mizuguchi’s experience on Rez proves itself to be highly influential. Every time you destroy part of the virus you’ll add to the beat, until eventually, Lumi’s beautiful voice may be heard amongst all of the craziness. Child of Eden allows players to become the conductor of a vibrant orchestra, as they quite literally use their hands to decipher what plays at what time. At certain points the sound design is excellently placed, as huge bass indicates seismic shifts in the levels appearance, and the beat ramps up the pressure in time with the difficulty. Above all, Child of Eden lets players know how they’re performing through the sound it emits, before scores and points are taken into account. While it’s great to see “Perfect” come up on screen, it’s more rewarding to hear one of the tracks play out in full.

Despite there only being five different stages to work through, each is a completely different experience. Whether you’re cleaning the back of a parasite-ridden whale or fixing cogs in time to open huge doors, Child of Eden is relentlessly spectacular. It’s the type of game that makes you want to gather family round, just so they can see it too. It’s even the type of game that makes you want to say, “Hey Mum, get off the balance board, look what Kinect can do!” Most genres have benefited from the shift to HD over the past five years, but Mizuguchi’s unique style has improved immensely since Rez first landed a decade ago.

The world is in trouble- who knew the danger would start with the Internet?

It’s worth noting that this title can be played using the Xbox 360 controller, but it feels a massive waste to do so. Kinect adds a sense of freedom to Child of Eden, and that’s definitely squashed if you revert back to triggers and joysticks. Although still playable, if you have Kinect, it’s difficult to recommend playing this title any other way. For those who don’t own Microsoft’s newest controller, there are still plenty of thrills to be had, as either way; you’ll get to experience the excellently balanced design on offer.

After a slow few months for Kinect, it’s refreshing to see a title like Child of Eden arrive with such confidence and swagger. Despite a lack of content, it’s a game that should be replayed a number of times, just so you can try different methods of attack and witness everything that it has to offer. Child of Eden is an attack on the senses that should be embraced with open arms, and is surely one of Kinect’s more remarkable highlights so far.