Child of Eden
After playing through scores of games over years and years, it's easy for any well-intentioned reviewer to find himself expecting the same old same old in certain categories. And that's especially true when it comes to shooter titles. Lots of chaos, cacophony and concussions usually fill the trigger-pulling bill. But it seems that even in this usually M-rated genre something totally unexpected can show up on occasion.
The storyline that begins the E10+ "shooter" Child of Eden is vague but beckoning. It's centuries in the future—a time when mankind has not only ventured into the universe beyond our planet but also turned the Internet back home into a repository for all human knowledge. Our descendants have dubbed this expanded and enhanced Web Eden. And taking a cue from that moniker of life's beginnings, they've initiated an experiment to piece together certain bits of memories and data, virtually re-creating a young woman named Lumi, the first girl ever born in space.
The opening video shows us this pretty teenager as she awakes, raven-haired and gossamer-clad, on the ground in a flowery paradise. But just as she's beginning to realize the beauty of her surroundings, things start melting away around her. A virus of unknown origin has infiltrated the network, and it's our job to cleanse the infection before it corrupts Eden's archives—and young Lumi's memory data is lost forever.
A Shooter of Another Color
Other than occasional glimpses of a reconstructed Lumi as we progress, that's pretty much all the story we get. The rest of the game is made up of five increasingly difficult levels set in a swirling Internet. Action focuses on viral enemies that must be blasted and purified. Each level has its own visual motif that ranges from flying through a revolving matrix of colorful squares to skimming over azure lakes to swimming through what looks like the cellular innards of a human body.
To be honest, the makeup of Eden's sumptuous whirling visuals and sounds is pretty hard to describe. Much easier is a hesitant comparison: This on-rails shooter is reminiscent of the very old-school alien-blasting arcade favorite Galaga—only unhinged and set to spinning about in a vortex of psychedelic, sensory-overloading modern art.
The virus enemies run the gamut from incandescent amebas to butterflies to a whale that transforms into a phoenix. And all of it is accompanied by a techno-pop music track which you can use to boost your score when multiple enemies are locked on and blasted in time with the beat.
The shooting mechanism is simple—essentially involving one of your controller's analog sticks, a button and a trigger. There are no bullets or cannon blasts, by the way. The shots are delivered in more of a series of light flashes. And when you play the game with the hands-free Kinect, well, you don't press any buttons or pull any triggers at all.
Wave of the Future
The Kinect sensors track your hand movements, and a sweeping right-hand motion locks a reticle on the quickly twirling enemies. A flick of your wrist releases the shot. Waving your left hand controls a less powerful rapid-fire shooter. And when the scores of foes become overwhelming, both hands raised clears the scene for a short period. With that organic soundtrack I mentioned earlier pumping in the background, Kinect play looks and feels something like a blend between conducting an orchestra and going for the burn in an upper-body aerobics class.
I should point out that this is a game you either love or hate. Using our own office as a microcosm, I can tell you that when I handed the game off to a couple of colleagues, one became engrossed while another found it painfully boring. And that dichotomy held true with other reviewers. I read one who gushed that this was "a momentary masterpiece," while another called it a "woefully undercooked shooter." One thing's for sure: In a genre full of M-rated meanness and messiness, Child of Eden is a pleasantly unique creation.