Child of Eden (PS3) review

Sensory and Synaesthesia

 More and more do I feel like there are some gamers that can’t appreciate what a game is, just for what it is. Now, games have to meet a set of arbitrary requirements, or they’re automatically crap. They have to have a certain graphical quality, a specific control scheme, a precise balance between story and gameplay, and the right method of distribution to be considered good. If a game fails to meet any or all of this criteria, it’s derided as being ugly, too obtuse, boring, and/or overpriced. It’s faulted for its surface qualities and, despite how much fun a game may be or what experiences it may present while it’s being played, it often can’t get out of the “oh it has too many cutscenes” stigma or the incessant “why can’t it play like Call of Duty?” questioning.

For example, you have the people who hate on Minecraft simply because of how blocky the graphics looks. Then, there are those complain about games like Killzone, because the controls aren’t the same as its competitors’.There’s also the people who look down on the Metal Gear Solid for trying to tell its story with several hours of cutscenes. And then, you have people who refuse to buy Child of Eden at retail because they think it’s too short; that it should be sold on PSN and XBLA instead.

It may be short, but not many games offer sights like this.

It’s a real shame that people feel that way, because Child of Eden is personally one of my favorite games of the year, and worth the $40 I bought it for on launch day. It’s a game that has stimulated my senses physically, visually, and audibly. It’s given me more “wow” moments than most games in recent memory. It’s visually engaging, and took me on trips I thought only achievable through the use of illicit drugs. Personally, I think those factors make up for the game’s brevity.

If you’ve ever played Rez, a sort of spiritual predecessor to Child of Eden, then you have an idea of how this is played. At its core, it’s a first person on-rails shooter. However, to strictly define it as that is doing the game a disservice. As each level starts, a song begins to play and slowly, as the player moves through the level, it evolves and becomes more layered. Adding to this are the sound effects: like an extra beat to the music, each effect plays when an obstruction is targeted or destroyed. Both of these elements then combine with the visuals, which start off bright and trippy, but get more and more abstract and interesting as the levels continue. Then, these elements combine with the vibration of the controller and, depending on what set-up you happen to have your PS3 connected to, possible Move and even 3D support as well, all to further take the player into the experience.

Child of Eden is perfect for rave parties.

Touching on the controls for a moment, their remarkable simplicity really helps keep things moving. However, to be clear, I was only able to play with a normal PS3 controller (sorry Move users!). To shoot, the player just has to hold down X to target enemies, and release it to fire. Pressing Circle unleashed an array of beams to take down multiple enemies at once, should you feel overwhelmed. The only place where the control runs into some rough spots, is the secondary weapon. Pressing either Square or R2 sends a second stream of bullets out, machine-gun style, but neither of these buttons felt comfortable to use. Square is entirely too close to X to hold both down effectively, and having to rely on the weirdly extended L2 and R2 buttons on the PS3 controller makes me cringe.

As I said before, Child of Eden is really short. As far as the main storyline goes, there are only five levels in total to shoot your way through, with more opening up after the credits play. These levels can take anywhere from five to ten minutes and are thankfully varied in their themes. The trouble I have with these, however, is that I was only blown away by two or three of these levels. That sounds petty, I understand, but when a game is this short, it really needs to fire on all cylinders to make it worthwhile as a whole. The last level in particular is entirely unimpressive, because it plays out as an extended boss fight rather than a fully-fledged level.

I can easily see Child of Eden becoming a topic in the “games as art” discussion. It totally deserves it, too.

Adding insult to injury here, is that the player is forced to replay levels to get enough stars to open the next areas. While fun at first, having to play the same levels over again, especially the less impressive ones, starts to wear out the game’s welcome very fast.

Still, I look back on Child of Eden with mostly fantastic memories. For the experiences alone, it’s going on my Top 10 list of the year. The graphics, sound, and controller vibration really do work together to bring forth a calming sense to the player that is simply indescribable on paper. In some ways, I’d consider it among the best looking (and sounding) games out for the PS3 and 360. However, if I never have to play it ever again, I’m fine with that too. Like most of Q Entertainment’s games, Child of Eden was fantastic while it lasted, but not a minute more.

Score: 8.5/10

It’s at its best when seeing it in motion; believe me.