Tetsuya Mizuguchi has long been a fan of ‘synesthesia’, or the association of different senses with one another. Mizuguchi’s vision is to connect the player to the game in a way that makes him feel fully involved in the experience. He even goes as far as to say that the player should be “conducting” the game, rather than just playing it. His PS2 title Rez already made an impressive first attempt at this concept and Child of Eden is set to improve upon it further.
The game aims to push this concept to the next level. Like Rez before it, Child of Eden takes place within the confines of a futuristic computer system, in this case known as Eden. Eden has been overrun by a virus and you, the player, need to make your way through it in order to set free a mysterious girl named Lumi who is held hostage within. Mizuguchi has not been generous with details on the storyline, but he promises a definite “dramatic element” to the game.
Weapons of mass cleansing
As you travel through each of the 5 ‘Archives’ which Eden is made up of (in an “on-rails” fashion), you’re left with the task of taking down strings of enemies that the game presents you with. You are given three weapons to help you do this. The first is a round, continuously shooting cursor that can be pointed at enemies using hand movements. The second weapon involves a paint-and-release system that targets enemies which can be shot simply by waving at them. Our favorite is a bomb - already dubbed by the developers as the “Happy Bomb” – that can be triggered by throwing your arms in the air. Ingeniously, you cycle through these weapons by clapping your hands together.
Mizuguchi himself isn’t too keen on using destructive terms when discussing the game and prefers to call the shooting of enemies ‘cleansing’ or ‘purifying’. This peaceful attitude is has a definite impact on the feel of the game, even if to most players cleansing will feel very much like killing.
As you cleanse away the virus, your actions will have a more audible impact than you might be used to, with the electronic score being supported by additional music produced by every enemy you take down. The music, incidentally, was entirely produced by Mizuguchi’s own band, the Genki Rockets (who aside from making funky music, are also blessed with an awesome name).
The game will support both Kinect and regular Xbox 360 and PS3 controllers but unfortunately Move integration is as of yet unannounced. If you are playing with a normal controller, the music will be underscored by the pad vibrating in sync to the beat from your speakers, a feature that Kinect will be unable to reproduce for obvious reasons.
Visually, Child of Eden is on a different plane entirely. The theme of ‘Hope and Happiness’ is represented extremely well by the sheer kaleidoscope of colours. Three of the five archives have already been revealed and are called Matrix, Evolution and Beauty and each has been shown to have a distinct visual theme. Enemies are varied throughout the Archives and the main virus-bearers are depicted as brightly lit jellyfish creatures which swirl around and disintegrate into miniature fireworks displays when cleansed. The nautical theme continues with rays, fish, strands of what are presumably virus-infected cubes, and even what looks like a blue whale. One end-boss comes in the form of a giant disco ball, making us think aquatic virus animals really like to party. Mizuguchi explains that as you purify more and more of these creatures, the Archives will begin to return to their former beauty, once again reinforcing your impact on the environment.
At the moment there is no HUD to speak of, but we have been promised a simple, organic HUD would appear in the finished product. Considering the nature of the game, this sounds like it should fit in nicely. An in-your-face HUD would be sure to distract from the feeling of immersion.
Odd, in a good way
To many people, Child of Eden’s whole concept will feel strange and unfamiliar. Having gotten used to the current staple of FPS juggernauts where violent depictions of death are the norm, defeating an enemy by “cleansing” them is sure to raise a few eyebrows. Nonetheless, this remarkable way of playing a game feels refreshing and may well be a much-needed direction for games to embark on. A good example are the critically lauded Flower titles which shy away from the normal recipe of death and destruction and instead embrace a calmer, more peaceful gaming experience. Games such as these are growing in popularity and if they are as innovative and interesting looking as this one, then why not?