Child of Eden is an arcade game. Fundamentally, that’s all it is; mechanically, it’s not much more than a rail shooter or sh’mup. And then it’s a symphony; it’s Euro pop or trance. Then it’s a light show synchronized to that symphony. And suddenly you’re inside of it, controlling the light show. Only you’re not controlling a light show, you’re actually saving a beautiful girl trapped inside the Internet!
Last week I said every action game should make the player feel awesome. Immersion is a big deal. Sucking the player into your world, regardless of what it is, is a big deal: that’s good game design. Commanding the player’s emotions is an even bigger deal: that’s brilliant game design. Testuya Mizuguchi is a brilliant game designer.
Child of Eden is very pretty, the music is incredible, and the two combined is mesmerizing. It’s easy to get lost in these levels, to get sucked away into the game play, and be completely enraptured. But Kinect sold the experience; here is one excellent use of motions controls. With Kinect, I’m not holding plastic, I’m not sitting down, I’m not reclined in a passive position to watch the symphony and light show unfold. No, I’m standing, flailing my arms about, commanding this show like some magical conductor. I’m the sorcerer’s apprentice here. Radiant shapes approach me and I wave my hands to tell them how to interact, to summon new musical tones. Then there’s this girl I’m supposed to save, the titular child of Eden who is locked away in this mass of sound and cubes. So I’m waving my stubby arms about, blasting away at her prison. But now I’m being attacked; the space is fighting back. So I switch to my defensive lasers to deflect the incoming missiles. Back to wailing on the shell. I feel like a superhero now, drawing in masses of energy and launching the bolts at each sci-fi target. It’s beautiful; I’m engaged. Then it ends.
Here’s the short fall of Child of Eden. Remember, it’s ultimately an arcade game, meaning you jump into a level, shoot at stuff, play for about 10 minutes, earn a score, and get dropped back on the menu. There’s no continuity, just different challenges. It works for a game, but it destroys the immersion like a meteor destroys the ozone. Send me into a level, give me the score, show a cinematic connecting Act 1 and Act 2, then send me back at it, on with the next level. You had me entranced, engaged, and then told me to go sit on the bench.
Maybe this kind of immersion isn’t what the sauruses and sauropods at Q? were after and I’m adding that it. But if that’s the case, this is a missed opportunity. This isn’t Dance Central where I play a song, act something out, then pass off to my buddy. This is a single-player, vivid, engaging experience. The interface and design screams for your attention; it draws you in like a magnet. Now that you’ve got me, keep me.
Child of Eden was developed by Q? Entertainment and published by Ubisoft. For this post, I played for about 2 hours, enough time to earn 14 stars and complete four levels, on Xbox 360 with Kinect.
This post was originally written and published on October 3, 2012.