Giant Bomb Review

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Child of Eden Review

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  • X360

Child of Eden is Tetsuya Mizuguchi's most fully realized lightspeed bioluminescent cyberspace techno-synthetic neon air sculpture. That it's also a video game seems beside the point.

A love letter to the positive potential of technology, humanity's capacity of greatness, synesthasia, and--in perhaps the only constant between all of Q? Entertainment games--the soaring hopefulness of turn-of-the-century vocal dance music, Child of Eden is, in literally everything but name, the sequel to Rez. Never a significant commercial success, and not without significant, meritous criticisms against it, Rez is still an influential and impactful game, blending intricate abstract imagery, cryptic narrative design, and pulsing, rhythmic gameplay in a way a commercial game had never done before it. It was arguably the game that triggered the ever-maddening "games as art" black hole of internet debate in earnest, and virtually every abstract, ethereal little sincerely subtitled indie rhythmic shooter since then owes a debt to Rez. As is so often the case, what you get when the creator of a creative flashpoint--in this case, Q? Entertainment's Tetsuya Mizuguchi--returns to the scene is...well, more of the same.

Granted, with Child of Eden, you're getting it with improved visuals, thanks to the considerable advantage the Xbox 360 has over the Dreamcast hardware Rez was originally developed for, as well as support for optional Kinect controls, which pair intuitively with the game's inherently simple, easy-going gameplay, but you'll lose a bit of the gamepad's cold accuracy in the process. Make no mistake, this game is a feast for the senses--or, perhaps more accurately, an evening spent grinding your molars against an irresponsible amount of fruit-flavored hard candy...for the senses--but it does not push boundaries the way Rez did, and with what amounts to just a few hours of raw, quantifiable gameplay in store, it's kind of a hard sell, perhaps even moreso than the original Rez.

And yet, aside from Rez, there's really nothing quite like the blissed-out soundscapes of Child of Eden. If you're receptive to the indulgences of early Internet cyber-idealism, or you're simply up for some bonged-out visuals of a crystal space whale flying into your mind's eye and shit, it's an experience worth some time and attention.

It should be telling that I'm hesitant to address Child of Eden as a game outright. As a video game, judged alongside other, traditional pieces of interactive electronic entertainment, well, Child of Eden is a little...limited. Let's just say the game part is not its greatest strength. If we're going to cook it down for scrap, Child of Eden is an on-rails shooter with lock-on targeting, the likes of which there are no particularly modern comparisons for, the closest being something like Panzer Dragoon Orta. (Twisted Pixel's upcoming Gunstringer for Kinect is actually shaping up to be a weirdly apt companion to Child of Eden, but let's not get ahead of ourselves here.) You paint enemies with a cursor, hit the trigger, and those enemies are gone. "Enemies" almost seems a little strong, since most of the things you're shooting seem kind of ambivalent about the whole affair, though targets that do bite back usually do so with color-coded projectiles that require you to switch to your manual weapon to eliminate.

You'll find health pick-ups, as well as Euphoria power-ups, which let you clear the screen when you're in a pinch. There are five main levels of unique, effectively static content in Child of Eden, and once you complete all five, you'll unlock a higher difficulty, some sound and visual effects, as well as a challenge mode that goes longer, but is dronier and less theatrical than the main levels. Most levels take, in my experience, a little more than 10 minutes to complete, though the game doles out access to subsequent levels in such a way that you'll likely have to play previous levels multiple times in order to progress.

Judged purely by this mechanical criteria, Child of Eden sounds lackluster at best. It's short, simple, and frankly, not terribly challenging. What makes Child of Eden worth playing--or, at least experiencing--are the brain-bursting, techno-psychedelic environments that you fly through. Following an opening scroll concerning some very serious nonsense about future ladies being digitized and reborn in the space Internet (I think), you're plunged into one level after another of what are essentially high-concept light shows. The first level feels like the most direct connection to Rez, with complex geometric structures built out of simple polygonal shapes that undulate and transform as the level continues. By the second level you're watching a crystal space whale transform into the mighty phoenix, and the third level...well, the third level takes place on a river, and is called "Beauty." Not sure I could describe it much better than that. The levels only get weirder, and more visually astonishing, from there.

If you couldn't tell already, Child of Eden is an achingly sincere game with a serious case of freshman philosophy. The substance of the game's profundity is wide open to debate, but it's never too overbearing about it, and there's something to be said for trying to divine the creator's intent from the thousands of swirling, flat-shaded cubes currently undulating across your screen.

It's astonishing that Rez would ever receive a sequel, official or otherwise, so the very existence of Child of Eden is kind of incredible. That it hewed so close to the formula of the original isn't an inherent fault, but it's hard not to wish there was just more of Child of Eden to experience.

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Edited by Thiemen

Hmm... I expected more tbh 
 
Still I´ve got no 360 so it´s not so important to me anyway

Edited by reddjoey

I guess I can wait for a price drop since it was "short," " simple," and "lackluster."

Posted by Cincaid

@Thiemen said:

I´ve got no 360

Odd to see someone with a green name say that. And it's coming to PS3 as well.

Either way Child of Eden is nothing for me, even if it got 5 stars.

Posted by Tikicobra

I never understood the hype for this game. It looks like a basic shooter with visual elements that I've seen a million times.

Posted by Nictel

The QL looked beautiful, too bad it's priced as a full game. ~15€/$ seems more appropriate.

Posted by PrioritySeven

If it's supported by some decent (and reasonably priced) DLC, I could see this as a purchase in the future. Good review, Ryan.

Posted by onimonkii

haven't played it, sounds like a fair assessment

Posted by FluxWaveZ
@CrazyChris said:

@Thiemen said:

I´ve got no 360

Odd to see someone with a green name say that. And it's coming to PS3 as well.

Why? I doubt many people actually choose their name color based on their console preference.
Posted by damswedon

Really want to grab this soon regardless of length or price.

Edited by HallwayGiant

Considering the games size (around 2 gigs I think) I really don't understand why this couldn't have been a high profile XBLA release. Would of easily paid $15+ for it.

Posted by Electric_Zen

But did it make you CRY?

Posted by Filch

Incredibly well written Mr. Davis

Posted by Nasar7

Well, like, you just don't get it man.

Posted by JackSukeru

Well that seems fair. Sorta wish there were more than 5 levels though, these games don't come around all that often.

Will pick it up once it comes to PS3.

Also; Ryan is a good writer.

Posted by SpartyOn

I dig the fact that Ryan digs using appositives...MECHANICS!

Posted by Mojokilla

No excuse for this to more than a $15 downloadable title. Publishers seem to be losing their minds on what constitutes value. Between this and $60 Duke Nukem, I can't decide which is the bigger rip-off. Who am I kidding... I would buy this any day over Duke Nukem. Still doesn't excuse the overcharging-ness of it all.

Posted by Mento

A fair and timely review: Neither undue nor late.

Moderator Online
Posted by ReyGitano

@Electric_Zen said:

But did it make you CRY?

The real question; is it art?

Posted by GalacticPunt

I love the quick look for this and I'm sure I will get it one day. But I understand Ryan's score considering the value proposition. $50 is pretty steep for the amount of entertainment here. This will be great at $20-30 in a few months. I S-Ranked Rez HD, and will play the ever-loving, balls-tripping shit out of this.

Posted by SirPenguin

I feel the developers created this game in some sort of weird bubble where gaming hasn't evolved since the Dreamcast. We live in the age of Audiosurf and Beat Hazard, of Rock Bands and Guitar Heroes. We should have long moved past the idea of rhythm games "running out of content" - you either crank some more out and sell it as DLC, or you make the game able to read in player's music for infinite DLC 
 
Seems strange they missed the boat on that one. People would have gladly paid $50 for a visualizer on steroids. Not so much for this.

Posted by Bloodgraiv3

Played some of it the other day, wasn't a huge fan but I can see why people like it. 
Posted by nickux

Surprised by the review's score but the damn thing is well-written and justified. Nicely done!

Posted by SomeJerk

Rez was full price back in the day, and I got more than I paid for out of that.

I don't know if this has all the replay-value of Rez though, that's the biggest problem.

That's something people forget. Replay-value. And that's because the industry has moved away from that and into artificially jamming it in with achievements and trophies. Then finally, something with actual honest to god replay-value appears and you guys crap yourselves.

We spent many coins playing arcade-games, what's the use right? You can finish one of those oldschool shmups in 45 minutes tops, waste of money right? It's fun, it has replay-value. If this has the right amount of fun and replay-value, this is done right, and priced right.

Posted by Enigma777

$50 for 90 mins = no buy

Posted by Oni

Yeah this is a weird case. For most people, 50 bucks is too much for this. Those that absolutely love Rez will probably love this, but I can't help feel this should've been a high-profile XBLA release either. I'll get it at some point for sure because I do like a good synaesthetic experience, but yeah.

Posted by patrick5152003

THANK YOU RYAN

Posted by DG991

I liked this game before it went mainstream.

Posted by Xpgamer7

I disagree with the rating of the review. I think for what it was trying to acheive it did perfectly and deserves at least 4 stars.

Posted by Lepton

Hmm, I don't think that Ryan gets to review good games anymore.

Posted by tourgen

3 stars seems very generous. An auto-play function that unlocks once you've been thru the game would make it into a decent screensaver.

Posted by mrfluke

@Enigma777 said:

$50 for 90 mins = no buy

i agree with ryan because of this big reason, the game is incredible but its still simple in mechanics and short in length, and everyone is just getting butthurt because of 3 stars

Posted by EveryNobody

This needed to be a downloadable title.

Or Mizuguchi needs to wake up and realize game design has moved on since Rez. Games like Audiosurf or Beat.Hazard are out, and they're awesome. You can do more with music-as-visuals than just 90 minutes of on rails shooting with pre-defined patterns.

If they made a Rez-like game that generated the patterns and visuals from your own music, or even a library of approved tracks, that would play in today's world.

But as it is, Child of Eden doesn't stand on it's own. For $15 I would be interested, but $60 is just straight up not worth it.

Posted by Hailinel

A lower score than I expected, but given the well-written review, it's more than fair. I personally enjoyed Rez when I played it, but I never got much mileage out of it. I doubt I'll be in any hurry to play Child of Eden, though it looks absolutely stunning.

Posted by csl316

Good thing I just got a $20 Amazon credit.  Purchase justified!

Posted by bassman2112

For some people this may, easily, be a 5-star game; but to someone who doesn't have a history with Rez nor do I particularly care for on-rails shooters/games that don't convey a really deep narrative, I think Ryan's review perfectly expresses how I'd feel about this game.

Thanks a ton for the review, Ryan =)

Posted by Lunar_Aura

A very fair review for a very fair game. As a Rez fan and midway through Child of Eden, I fully agree with this review.

Posted by JonBot

I'm a little surprised to see this game got a 3 based on how much excitement there was over it, and how well it was scoring at other sites. Still, It's good to see such an honest review that doesn't take it for more than it is. Bravo, Ryan Davis.

Posted by ptc

So, why do game reviews consider price?  Would it be 5 stars if it was free?  Movie reviews never mention the price of the experience.  If I see it for free on tv, or pay full price at the theater, that doesn't change how good the movie is - or isn't.  That said, very good review Ryan.  You definitely have the minority opinion on this one re: kinect controls.  Every other review I've read agrees it's better with kinect.
Posted by EnchantedEcho

I don't mind paying full price for another Mizuguchi experience, I understand Ryan's score though.

Posted by Afroman269

Solid review. I'm still so tempted to get this just to play it high.

Posted by MEATBALL

Seems like a fair review. Looking forward to giving the game a try. A great read as always.

Edited by DevWil

People pointing to Audiosurf and Beat Hazard as progress in game design since Rez sound crazy to me. 
 
Rez and Child of Eden are interactive music experiences that are crafted with the care that an algorithm can't do. I think Audiosurf and Beat Hazard are really pretty boring experiences. I actually just wrote a blog about my disdain for music-as-input games like them. Music-as-output is so much more compelling to me.
 
I don't totally agree with Ryan's review, but--hey--I gave it 5 stars the day it came out so I'm biased. Though, I guess I understand giving it three stars given the audience. A five-star score by a Giant Bomb editor usually implies that they're recommending the game for everybody. Child of Eden probably isn't for everybody, and I don't mean that certain people are too stupid to get it (so don't jump down my throat). Certain people just aren't looking for an experience like this in a product designed for their Xbox 360. 
 
I just think it's so special and so well-crafted that it can't be any less than five stars.
 
The price is irrelevant, in my opinion. If you don't find the inherent replay value in this game, it might not be worth any of your dollars at all. Replay value doesn't have to be explicitly designed into the game. Sometime a game is just worth playing more than once. This has kind of been argued to death in the forums, but comparing Child of Eden to other games is much less appropriate than comparing it to music. You wouldn't complain about an album being only 35 minutes long if it was a truly extraordinary 35 minutes of music.
 
I've paid $100 total for Rez in various forms and I don't regret how much money I've spent on that similarly short game. Both games are special multimedia experiences and, as someone in the games-can-be-art camp, I think they're worth every penny asked for them. 
 
Edit: Gotta admit Ryan really used the English language well in this review, though.

Posted by XChairmanDrekX
@DevWil: Well said man. 
Online
Posted by Enigma777

@ptc said:

So, why do game reviews consider price? Would it be 5 stars if it was free? Movie reviews never mention the price of the experience. If I see it for free on tv, or pay full price at the theater, that doesn't change how good the movie is - or isn't. That said, very good review Ryan. You definitely have the minority opinion on this one re: kinect controls. Every other review I've read agrees it's better with kinect.

Games =/= movies.

Edited by Three0neFive

I haven't seen it mentioned anywhere, but does this game have Move support? It just seems like Move would be a much better fit than Kinect (or controller) for this type of thing...

Posted by dollarsANDcents

Excellent review. The game play is simple, with little depth to it, but it is an overall great experience

Posted by Cornman89

Space whale is sad...

Posted by DevWil
@Three0neFive said:
I haven't seen it mentioned anywhere, but does this game have Move support? It just seems like Move would be a much better fit than Kinect (or controller) for this type of thing...
It will have Move support.
Posted by beard_of_zeus

I picked up the game for $40, and like it a whole lot (as I did Rez), but given that it might not be for everyone due to it's lack of mechanics or much story (or even a ton of quantifiable gameplay hours), I can understand the review. It's a supremely well-crafted experience that I think people should spend some time on at some point, and a little less great as a game.

Posted by ShiftyMagician

This is a really fair review.  I will personally love the hell out of this game when I get it one day, but it really is a harder sell for anyone looking for just a game experience and not a visual one.   
 
Still, great to see that this game exists.

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