Child of Eden Hands-on Preview

By Garnett Lee, Sep 28, 2010 9:00am PDT A decade ago, Q? Entertainment founder Tetsuya Mizuguchi led the team that produced Rez. Its inscrutable combination of shooting action, driving electronica music, and vividly imagined cyberscapes held an almost primitive appeal for those with whom it clicked. Though there was no sequel, only the remake Rez HD for XBLA, Rez finally gets a true spiritual successor in the upcoming Child of Eden. At a special event held during TGS, I got a chance to play this new experience, both with a controller and with Microsoft's Kinect motion controller peripheral.

James Mielke, my old friend from 1UP and EGM and now a producer on Child of Eden, explained the premise: "People who are really deep into Rez will know that the actual storyline elements that are described [in the end game notes] are that this whole thing takes place in Eden. Eden is a metaphor for the future Internet where all information is archived; all humans' memories are stored, and that ties into the central character, Lumi." In Child of Eden a virus threatens those stored memories and must be surgically removed from the system.

The core shooting mechanic of Rez and its interaction with the music come over to Child of Eden. Multiple targets can be locked onto before firing and each hit "plays" in the music. Child of Eden also introduces a second type of shot. Like a Gatling gun, it produces a steady stream of fire but rather than cause damage, it works like a repulsor beam to push things out of the way.

The levels I played incorporated this in a puzzle-like way by having places where a layer of blocks covered up what I needed to shoot. By using the new repulsor shot I could shove them around the screen to open a firing window and then switch to the standard shot to get in some hits before the blocks closed back up again.

On the controller, this translated to simply switching between two fire buttons. Like Rez, the lock-on works by holding down the fire button, highlighting targets, and releasing to fire. Since it fires continuously, the new shot just requires holding its button down. Aside from this new twist, playing Child of Eden with the regular controller felt a lot like playing Rez.

Playing with Kinect completely changes the complexion of the game, adding a whole other layer of interaction. Using my hand held out in front of me, I wiped around the screen to lock-on to targets and then literally threw my shots at the screen. Only one shot type can be active at a time so I had to switch between shots by bringing my hands together. At first I thought I needed to actually clap, which was a fun way to get into the music, but it actually worked a little better to swipe my hands together like a Vegas dealer changing shifts.

Once I got it down, playing Child of Eden with Kinect was like a sort of guided interpretive dance to match the game and music. At first I fell into my normal pattern of wanting to max out each lock-on before releasing my shots. But as I got into the music, I started to throw shots as much to the rhythm as to the on screen enemies. I also loosened up as I grew comfortable with the movements, getting into the groove of the game. That's when Child of Eden really came into its own. I was adding flourishes, throwing shots at the screen, bouncing around to the beat, and it really felt like the game was rewarding me the more I got into it.

The promise of exactly that sort of experience was what helped Child of Eden quietly win over many E3 attendees as the most exciting Kinect game on display while Microsoft focused on more predictable motion control games--those with a perceived broader appeal. There's no arguing that Kinect didn't match the precision of the controller but there's also nothing quite like the feeling of being in the game using Kinect. It's almost like getting two games and I'm looking forward to playing both ways when Child of Eden lands on retail shelves in early 2011.

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