Child of Eden - Review

Child of Eden
Rating: E-10+ - Everyone 10+

Child of Eden

This innovative first-person rail shooter transcends the genre to provide the definitive Kinect gameplay experience.

Rail shooters are a time-honored video game paradigm. The game propels the player forward along a predetermined path, leaving the player free to blow the heck out of anything and everything on the screen. There's always a mechanism whereby the player is in danger. Typically this involves things shooting things at the player, which can either be avoided by up/down/left/right movement or simply blown up like everything else.

I remember going with my folks to Chuck E. Cheese in 1984. They had just installed the Star Wars arcade game, a rail shooter with cool 3D vector graphics and a controller just like the ones in real X-wings (I was sure about this at the time). The controller, graphics, and sound were all groundbreaking in their day. It's still one of my all-time favorite video games.

Skip forward 27 years to Child of Eden, the first rail shooter to give me the same jaw-on-the-floor thrill that I got from Star Wars. It's got beautiful graphics, intuitive controls, and gameplay that has to be seen (and heard) to be believed.

I knew I was in for a treat as soon as I loaded up the disc. The menus have the same vibrant look as the actual game graphics, equal parts organic and sci-fi shiny. Starting a new game triggers a stunning opening cinematic that combines a real human actress with state-of-the art CG and 5.1 sound to create an instantly engaging, emotionally evocative experience. The quality of the graphics continues into the game itself. The game's visual elements are abstract and difficult to describe. The best I can do is say that they're geometric components made of light, combined into organic shapes with fluid, flowing movements.

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Child of Eden is a shooter, so the controls are simple. The left hand pours out a continual stream of low-power shots toward wherever the player is pointing. The right hand reticule marks targets (up to eight at a time) which blow up simultaneously with a flick of the wrist. The targeting reticules only appear when the player points at the Kinect so they don't clutter up the display.

And the gameplay...aaaah, the gameplay. Child of Eden isn't content to simply let the player play the game. The player helps to create the game. The soundtrack is comprised of constantly evolving electronic music with a driving techno beat. Every time the player shoots with the left hand, locks on with the right hand, or uses the right-hand wrist flick, it makes a percussive sound that blends with the soundtrack. It takes about three seconds to realize that simply firing willy-nilly isn't nearly as cool as timing everything to the beat. After a few minutes of this, it feels more like conducting or composing than shooting. It's magical.

Child of Eden isn't without its flaws. I found it difficult to play with a standard Xbox controller. The calibration was a little too twitchy for my taste, and the game doesn't offer a way to adjust it. Since the game requires pointing at the screen with both arms, it's easy for the player to tire out her shoulders. The menus sacrifice clarity for aesthetics. The bright colors and flashing lights make the game more likely than most to trigger vertigo or epileptic reactions in some players.

The biggest flaw isn't the game's fault at all, actually. It's a fundamental problem with the Kinect: it doesn't work right if the player is sitting down. The targeting reticules jump around the screen and the wrist flicks don't always register. I'm a paraplegic, so this is a dealbreaker for me. In fact, it's a testament to the game's brilliance that I liked it so much in spite of the Kinect's erratic control behavior during the game. Child of Eden is the type of game that invites relaxing on the couch as much as dancing in front of the TV, so it's a real shame that Microsoft has chosen to exclude seated players.

A game like Child of Eden comes along maybe once or twice a decade. If you are physically capable of playing it and have a Kinect (or know someone who does), it's absolutely something you should experience for yourself. Rent it, buy it, borrow it, whatever - just don't let it pass you by.

Fun Factor: Fantastic
Player Friendly: Needs to be able to be played sitting down.

Reviewed by: Finn Kisch - Aug/11

  • Child of Eden
  • © Ubisoft
  • Platform(s): PS3 X-BOX 360