Download Size: 300 MB
Time Played: 4 hrs.
Gardens Unlocked: 12/15
Global Ranking (2/5/12): 18th
What I'd Pay: $10
Steam Price (2/5/12): $10
PixelJunk Eden turns a lot of platforming mainstays on their head. Instead of rich colors, it uses 3-4, with the neon plants/ground contrasting with the psychedelic background. Instead of cheery game tunes, slow electronica issues forth from your speakers. Time, not the enemies, is your biggest foe. And you have to pull off combos and gather spores to create your platforms.
You play a Spiderman proxy in an abstract oversized garden. You can leap great heights, cling to any surface, and even swing around a plant by connecting a silk thread and leaping off. In each Garden (Stage), there are 5 MacGuffins to find. However, there's no path to them at first; you need to grow plants for platforms and footholds to go further up and around the environment. You grow plants by bursting the pollen constantly floating across the level and collecting the spores they release, which then fill up the nearest seeds. When the seeds are full, a new plant will sprout from it when you touch it. Sound simple?
Well, the whole time you're gathering pollen, your health is slowly draining. Health packs are also limited, so although there isn't a strict timer, there's always some pressure to advance faster. How do you do that? Combos. The more pollen you burst without latching onto a surface, the more spores they release. The more spores you gather, the quicker seeds mature. It's an excellent way to encourage comboing "enemies" (most of the pollen doesn't attack) and getting into a groove.
The whole game encourages that groove, a slow, steady cycle of reaching a new area, bursting pollen, activating seeds, walking that fine line between dying from delaying and screwing up from being too hasty, alternating between relaxing and tense. It feels more like a pure platformer than a typical platformer, something abstract that still nails the basics with grace.
Don't worry about the control scheme getting screwed up in the port, either; I couldn't tell it was originally made for a game pad. You use your mouse to point the direction you want him to jump, and he leaps through plants as long as you hold the jump button; the moment you let go of it, he latches onto the next surface he touches. How did the PS3 pull off this kind of "jump in any direction" so fluidly? Could it? I find it hard to believe the original could handle as well as this port.
Alright, so it's got great controls and a good premise, but how long does it keep your interest? Longer than I expected; after the initial Gardens, it starts throwing more challenging layouts at you, and even a few Garden-specific variants. The Frog Garden has you catapulting from crevice to crevice, while Garden 9 combines floating mines with a lot of ceiling traversal. One Garden has occasional gusts of wind, while another changes gravity on you. My favorite was Garden 8, which catapults you to the top from the start; the challenge is making your way down through the world without falling. They make world layouts memorable.
I'm honestly disappointed so few people are playing this, I'm already in the Top 25 of the global charts. This is one of the most interesting platformers I've seen in years and an excellent port to boot; it deserves a bigger audience than this.