With the possible exception of some of Microsoft’s dedicated first-party software (and Kinect Sports in particular) Child of Eden is the most persuasive argument yet for Kinect‘s status as a must-have gaming device. If you’re a fan of Tetsuya Mizuguchi – and his classic PS2/Dreamcast oddity Rez in particular – then Child of Eden will already be on your radar. For anyone hoping for Rez 2, Child of Eden is pretty much precisely that, and can be experienced in full with a standard 360 joypad if that’s what you’re after. But the slogan on the box isn’t nonsense. Child of Eden really is better with Kinect.
It was difficult to discern whether it was down to a shoddy localisation job or simply Mizuguchi being obtuse, but Rez’s threadbare ‘plot’ seemed almost deliberately nonsensical. Child of Eden‘s story is thematically similar; you’re a computer program spun from a wistful human’s memories of earth, and are tasked with protecting an AI project called Lumi from a viral attack. It’s every bit as dotty as it sounds, but a brief opening cinematic does a very succinct job of actually engaging you; even though it often looks like a futuristic Timotei advert.
The gameplay will be familiar to anyone who’s played Rez. If you haven’t, it’s an on-rails shooter that primarily involves dragging your target reticule over multiple objects at once (up to a total of eight) and ideally landing as many 8-hit combos as physically possible. In Rez you were only told that you’d landed eight hits via a low-pitched aural cue, but in Child of Eden your target reticule is split into eight clearly discernible chunks, and it glows brightly once eight targets have been logged in your sights. It’s a wise addition, and definitely helps you to maintain you score when things get overly hectic; which they do frequently.
As was the case in Rez, if you leave it too long before destroying a target it will hurl a slow-moving purple projectile at you, and this is where the gameplay has seen its single most fundamental refinement. Destroying enemy projectiles can no longer be done by using your primary weapon, with a new machine-gun like secondary attack being used to eradicate those instead. In addition, some enemies are cloaked in a purple shell when the first appear, and you’ll have to destroy that cover using your defensive weapon first; before finishing them off with your primary.
These two attacks are mapped to two different face buttons on the Xbox 360 controller, but on Kinect it means that you’ll have to use both your hands; one for each strike. Switching between them whilst using Kinect is a surprisingly faultless exercise, which is the case with all of the physical commands that you’ll need to employ. Once you’re used to it (this should take no longer than the duration of a single ten-minute level) the Kinect control scheme is so close to being a legitimate replacement for a pad that it isn’t hard to imagine that the top people on the game’s high score leaderboards – which are already very closely fought – achieved those scores using Kinect instead of a controller.
Even if you don’t have Kinect – though if ever there was a game worth picking it up for, it’s this – Child of Eden is almost as gripping without it. Despite its small (and successful) gameplay modifications it’s every inch the Rez sequel that so many have been waiting so long for; only faster and much more vibrant and colourful. It’s also much easier to understand – with a coherent life bar being another fruitful new addition – and because the Kinect experience is so different from the standard pad-based one, it’s essentially two fantastic games in one. Neither should be missed.
Child of Eden is out now for Xbox 360, and due for release on Playstation 3 on Friday, September 9th 2011.
Watch the Child of Eden trailer here: