Posted by John on September 29, 2011

Child Of Eden PS3 review - moving experience

Playing Child Of Eden is one of the emotional experiences we’ve ever had with a video game. Not in terms of story or characters - there’s not really any of either - but in its euphoric mix of visuals, music and gameplay. No one element dominates and the game would be nothing unless all three were working in perfect harmony. But they are and the end result is a blissful sensory overload unlike any other… or at least unlike any other but Rez.

If you don’t know what Rez is we implore you to download it from Xbox Live Arcade, as this is a sequel in all but name. As before you play an abstract CGI avatar entering a computer system in order to save an artificial intelligence from a rampaging virus, but although the visuals are ripe with symbolism there’s little in the way of linear storytelling.

In basic terms the gameplay is extremely simple, with action that is almost identical to the early Panzer Dragoon titles - and thus not too different from even older on-the-rails shooters such as Space Harrier.

Using a first person viewpoint you control a simple circular cursor and have access to two basic weapons, one of which is a rapid fire ‘tracer’ cannon. The other allows you to lock-on to multiple enemies at a time - before launching a bevy of neon-coloured missiles at them. You’re not actually supposed to be destroying anything though, but instead purifying the virtual fauna and flora.

This distinction becomes more obvious with some of the larger opponents, which burst into life and colour when defeated. But whatever you do your every action affects the soundtrack, with successful hits and purified enemies adding to the pulsing rhythm of the trance-style tunes that accompany every level.

None of the music is the sort we’d listen to normally, but in the game it merges with the visuals and action until all seem as one. And that’s exactly what creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi intended, since both Rez and Child Of Eden are supposed to induce
synesthesia.

(It’s not the only unusual stimulation the game seeks to exploit either. Although there’s no bespoke Trance Vibrator peripheral this time you are encouraged to slip up to four joypads into your trouser pockets, in order to stimulate the parts other games dare not reach.)

The game may not look impressive in screenshots or even in videos, but as colours and shapes burst across the screen and enemies explode to the tinkling of harps and the thump of drums it’s only in the act of playing that it all begins to make sense.

We’ve no idea why the game has taken so long to appear on the PlayStation 3 but one of the appeals of the original was its imaginative and immersive use of Kinect. Waving PlayStation Move wands around isn’t quite the same though, except in the fact that it’s still not quite as accurate as using a joypad.

That said using Move is an enjoyable novelty and you feel even more like a conductor waving a baton, although here you’re controlling not just music but a virtual fireworks display as well. The Move controls work in the same basic way as Kinect, as you aim the onscreen reticule and flick the wand to release a locked-on shot. The wand trigger is used to activate the tracer fire, or there’s an alternative control system where everything but aiming is mapped to buttons.

If you want to be racking up any high scores though the good old joypad is still the way to do it. That’s not the game’s fault, just a limitation of the accuracy and reaction speed of Move, which as a pointer is even less accurate than the Wii remote.

Another intractable issue is the game’s length, which like Rez is limited to only five basic levels (or archives as the game calls them). It probably won’t take a skilled gamer more than three hours or so to get through them all, but this isn’t some joyless shooter meant to be experienced once and then discarded.

From the Tron style wireframes of the opening Matrix archive to the CGI flower garden of Beauty and industrial cogs and wheels of Passion, each has its own distinctive style and atmosphere. What’s even better about the PlayStation 3 version is that it supports 3D visuals via a 3DTV, which is an option sorely missed on the Xbox 360.

Few games benefit from the effect more than this, with the incredible visuals exploiting the effect in a way no more realistic-looking game could. And it helps with the gameplay too, enabling you to gauge the distance of faraway bullets more easily and to prioritise them more effectively.

(The PlayStation 3 version is also considerable cheaper than the Xbox 360 was originally, at just £20. An unfortunate sign that the original didn’t sell, but an absolute bargain for PlayStation 3 owners.)

Up until the release of Child Of Eden replaying Rez at least once a year has become an almost sacred ritual for fans such as us - an attempt to not only better a high score but simply re-immerse ourselves in the world.

Like a favourite movie or album these two games stand up to an infinite number of replays, creating an oasis of positive stimulation in a world - and a games industry - that is often only obsessed with ugly violence.

Child Of Eden does have action, as tightly choreographed as the very best shooters, but the sense of awe created by the visuals and the elation of the interactive soundtrack remains almost unique - and one of the most inspiring experiences in all video gaming.

In Short: The same euphoric mix of interactive gameplay, visuals and music as the Xbox 360, but while it loses the immersion of Kinect it gains a gorgeous new 3D mode.

Pros: Unmatched combination of visuals and audio, married to some of the best on-the-rails action and boss battles ever created. 3D effect works superbly well.

Cons:  They might be more immersive but the Move controls just aren’t as reliable or accurate as a joypad. Infinitely replayable but also extremely short.

Score: 9/10

Formats: PlayStation 3 (reviewed) and Xbox 360

Price: £19.99

Publisher: Ubisoft

Developer: Q Entertainment

Release Date: 30th June 2011

Age Rating: 7

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  • what a complete load of rubbish. how you can give 9/10 to what equates to nothing more then an epilepsy simulator. gc u really do disappoint me at times.

  • GC, you keep saying that Child Of Eden doesn’t look so great in stills and videos, but I disagree. It looks fantastic! I must concede though that it looks even more fantastic when you’re actually playing it. ;)

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