Review: Child of Eden

It isn’t every day  I get to review a sequel to a cult Dreamcast music rhythm on-rails shooter. Or that you get to read one. Let’s both enjoy this, shall we? ;

 

Child of Eden is the spiritual sequel to Rez, Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s famed abstract shooter. The story is a more overtly presented this time around, as an introductory text explains the context of the events happening. What was once the Internet is now a grand repository for all human knowledge known as Eden.

Within Eden lives the memories of ‘Lumi’, the first child born in space. The project to rebuild her using that information comes under assault by a kind of virus, and you’re tasked with blasting away all aggressors in order to awaken Lumi once again. This Lumi is in fact the very same fictional star of band Genki Rockets, and if you’re a fan of their works then you’re already guaranteed to be enamored with the premise and the basic audio of this game as the majority of the soundtrack is provided by the band in question.

The way that Lumi is presented in-game is incredibly interesting, as part of the Hatsune Miku appeal is that she is a virtual construct in a real world. Conversely, Lumi is in a virtual world but is actually represented as a living human being having been filmed and inserted into the gamespace. The effect of this is often arresting as Lumi has a constant visual presence in the game wherein every single stage in the game you’re reminded of her existence as being important to the world.

Players familiar with Rez should find themselves comfortable with the mechanics in play but the game is relatively easy to get to grips with even for those new to the series. You control a reticule via the analog stick or alternatively with Kinect (which evidently I do not have) by using your right hand. Kinect as I understand it will assume this means you want to lock onto an enemy, but to do so on the controller means you have to hold A.

The reason for this is that new to the series you have a second kind of shot. By pulling the right trigger, pushing X or aiming with your left hand you will instead fire a machine-gun style attack. Some enemies and obstacles will be stained with a purple aura making them only susceptible to this form of attack, but it does have a myriad of uses in other situations.

For one it does make it a lot easier to relax in areas with a high concentration of enemies. Secondly, the lock-on attack no longer damages enemy projectiles, which instead need to be blasted with the new bullets. The attack doesn’t have the lock-on constraints of the regular beams meaning you can often find yourself facing down far more bullets than you would’ve in the original Rez and yet having a lot less trouble taking them all out successfully.

There is a bit of a flaw here in that you no longer have a 3rd-person viewpoint of your character, so it’s quite difficult to know just when exactly an enemy shot is going to hit you. In Hard Mode you take twice as much damage so it never seems worth the risk to shoot them down in any creative manner, but rather aim for whatever one is closest to your face.

There are only about five stages available,as well as a much less creative Challenge Mode, but those main levels are the absolute highlight of the game. Every single one of them is brimming with incredibly imaginative visuals and an outstanding thematic soundtrack. The first stage known as ‘Matrix’ eases you in through a rather straight-forward tunnel segment before opening up into a wider more populated arena, and yet the 4th stage has an almost entirely different introduction.

Known as ‘Passion’, the stage begins with a single sphere that you can target,, with barely any audible BGM to speak of. Damaging it causes it to split and the game bursts into a boss fight against two opposing planetoids bashing against each other before the soundtrack officially kicks off and you’re transported to a brilliantly realized clockwork that transforms gradually as a grand visual metaphore for the evolution of technology as a whole.

I really don’t know how to explain how good this all looks. Some of the vistas Q Entertainment have managed to conjure are up are simply stunning and are among the most impressive I’ve ever seen on the 360. Of course a lot of this comes from the game being entirely on-rails but you are given a decent amount of scope to look around when things aren’t quite so hectic. The best part is that a lot of the environments are interactive. True to Mizuguchi’s style as an auteur the soundscape is directly involved in the hows and whens of your attacks, with co-ordinated assaults of lock-on lasers creating complex feedback where as prolonged tracer fire initiates a compelling drum roll as your hammer away at a certain foe.

You can even fire tracer bullets anywhere you want to on-screen for a variety of reactions. Sometimes it can cause various particles to shift out the way or a maze of cubes to start cycling in small formations, all of which do wonders to breathe life and believability to stages that otherwise could’ve been simply static canvases.

I do have a few issues with some of the design choices made however. To start with I don’t actually believe the game is short. In fact as a shooter it is rather generous, however the designers clearly were afraid of belief from fans and implemented a rather unwelcome mechanic to prevent you blowing through it so quickly. To access any of the stages past the first one, you need to accumulate stars, which are awarded based on how well you did on the previous stages.

The problem with this is that they aren’t regular gates in that the game wants you learn how to score well enough to succeed on harder stages. You will accumulate stars every time you complete a stage, not just the first, meaning you can actually earn more stars even if you haven’t improved your ability in the slightest. Hell, you could even have gotten worse. The game also doesn’t include your total score on the HUD as default, despite the speed of your progression relying so heavily on it. Which strikes me as a little counter-intuitive

It also didn’t seem to be very obviously explained how the Perfect Octa-lock works, which is a major issue as it is the absolute key to scoring highly.. Each time you lock onto eight targets and then release it on the beat of the music your score multiplier increases by one to a maximum of eight. What wasn’t explained is that messing up an octa-lock perfect knocks your multiplier down to 0 again, however that doesn’t happen if you release a lock-on at anytime below eight.

Euphoria, your smart bomb in-case of emergencies also doesn’t seem to reduce your total, but using it also reduces your bonus at the end of a stage meaning that unless you know all of this by the time you finish stage one you will absolutely have to repeat a stage rather than just progress to the next one.

The game never tells you that you haven’t been doing it though, so if you haven’t noticed that you’re lacking in a particular area of strategy then you might never until you give the tutorial a second read.

These are really minor quibbles though and once you’ve unlocked all the stages and really get a feel for the game it’s an absolute joy to blast through. I actually had some trepidation to the scoring mechanic of releasing shots to the beat of the music as I’m pretty rubbish at that and it seems rather harsh to penalise someone for not being able to keep a beat when it’s never required in any other part of the game.

I’d love to see some more exploration to the mechanics next time, like bosses you can only hit when attacked directly between two musical beats but for now this is just too damn good to deny yourself.

Don’t be fooled by the name. If you were a fan of Rez originally you’re bound to be a fan of this one. If you’re on the fence you can always play the demo of Rez HD on XBLA to see if it’s the kind of thing you could enjoy, and it is retailing at a lower-than-usual price (30 rather than 40 Pounds in the UK) if you happened to need any extra convincing.

A cult classic Rezurrected, Child of Eden is a proud addition to the family. A.

  • Stooball

    Nice review, I loved Rez on the Dreamcast. It’s almost a no brainer with that price tag too. I’m a bit curious how it plays out on Kinect as well, though…

  • ninjajosh

    i heard on ign that the kinect controls are better

    • I played through the game with just a controller so far and loved it. I’ve heard Kinect is great as well and a completely different experience. I have a feeling I’ll prefer the controller method because I like having something physical to control with but I plan on trying it out with Kinect soon as wel.

  • ninjajosh

    if i played the game i would want to play it with my mind over the controller or kinect

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