The good

  • Most responsive Kinect controls to date
  • Pure beauty in visuals and sound
  • Sucks you into the game
  • Tons of stuff to unlock

The bad

  • Big gap between ‘easy’ and ‘medium’ difficulty
  • Only 5 levels
  • Makes your arms hurt
  • No multiplayer

Child of Eden is the game that has occupied the top spot in my Kinect games wish list since it was announced all the way back at the E3 of 2010. You can imagine how excited I was when it finally arrived on my doorstep and now after I have given it a good playthrough I am happy to share my findings with you!

In Control

When you start Child of Eden for the first time and enter the main menu you will immediately notice it: With Child of Eden you are absolutely and completely in control. This is finally a game where Kinect input is responsive, fluid and lag free! The way the menu navigation works is the same as for the Kinect Hub: You move the cursor around the screen by moving your extended hand and to select an option you hover over it for a short time. But what a difference this is from the other games that use this exact same method! It’s hard to explain, but with Child of Eden it just feels ‘right’!

These perfect Kinect controls luckily also extend into the actual game, and this makes Child of Eden with Kinect a true pleasure to play. Moving the crosshair over the screen feels precise and fluid, making your job of targeting enemies effortless and intuitive.

Child of Eden is an on-rails shooter where the player has to save Project Lumi from a virus attack. You control a target reticle that can be used with two different weapons. The primary weapon is a ‘target painter’ and is controlled with the right hand. You move the crosshair over the screen to lock on to a maximum of eight targets. Then, with just a flick of your hand all these targets are shot in rapid succession. The second weapon is a rapid fire purple laser: When you extend your left hand this weapon comes on and continuously fires at the screen. This weapon fires fast but deals less damage.

The primary weapon is your ‘point scoring’ weapon: as you lock on to the maximum of 8 targets (an Octa-Lock) and kill them perfectly you will gain a scoring multiplier, every time you get a consecutive Octa-Lock this multiplier increases. Learning to use this weapon well and mastering Octa-Locks is the only way to give you a chance at dominating the leader boards!

Your secondary weapon will not allow you to rack up tons of points, but it is still very important to master this weapon too. This is because the purple laser is used to destroy incoming missiles. These cannot be destroyed by the primary weapon and if not dealt with in time will damage you. The purple laser also deals more damage to purple colored enemies, so you’ll find yourself switching weapons quite often. Switching weapons can be done through clapping your hands, or using one arm for the primary weapon and another for the secondary one.

Shoot purple enemies with the purple laser!

As a last resort there is also the ‘smart bomb’ weapon (launched by sticking both your hand up), which destroys all incoming projectiles and non-boss enemies on the screen. This weapon is extremely powerful but also very limited in supply.

Pure art

Now that you know what weapons you have at your disposal you’re probably wondering what you are shooting. This is a very good question but at the same time very hard to answer. The ‘enemies’ in Child of Eden are as strange as they are diverse: You will shoot organic and mechanical creatures, ranging from tiny to gigantic. There is however one thing that can be said about them all: they are all exhilaratingly beautiful! The whole realm of Child of Eden looks like a work of art: the backdrops, the enemies and special effects are all contributing to transforming your TV screen into a window to a stunning world that will suck you in and will warmly slip you into reverie.

I remember clearly when I had my first big “wow, oh my god this is amazing” moment and it will serve as a perfect illustration to the beauty of Child of Eden. Quite early in the game you will encounter an underwater stage, where you get the feeling you are really floating along with graciously moving stingrays, jellyfish and whales while experiencing total tranquility. The color pallet and special effect really make you feel like you are in a surreal underwater environment and you’ll need all your eyes to soak up all the details of this stage. Then suddenly one of the whales seamlessly transform into an absolutely stunning looking phoenix! When I saw that I think I stared at it for a good time before actually starting to shoot it, just to realize what I just had seen. Child of Eden is filled with moments like these makes the game just an undeniable pleasure to look at.

Feel the beat

Stunning graphics are not the only thing that makes you totally engrossed in playing Child of Eden. The music (by Genki Rockets, check out a clip below) and sound effects are also a main contributing factor to the experience of playing Child of Eden. Music is what depicts the world of Child of Eden: creatures spawn on the beat of the music, effects are triggered by the beat and to be honest, the whole world moves on the beat of the music! But you won’t just hear this beat, if you want to you can feel it too! Turn on your regular Xbox controllers, put them in your pockets and they will vibrate on the beat of Child of Eden’s music. You will see, hear and feel the beat: Pure synesthesia!

There is even more to the audible experience Child of Eden because the music is part player driven. What I mean with this is that all your actions within the game evoke a sound that will fit in with the music. Locking on, hitting and destroying: All these actions carry their own specific sound based on what object it is performed.  In a sense you are the conductor of the Child of Eden soundtrack! Along with the beautiful graphics and the vibrations of the Xbox controllers makes the experience of playing Child of Eden almost ethereal!

Boss Battles!

The combination of all the thrilling elements of Child of Eden are weaved to perfection during the many ominous boss battles. These encounters with often colossal adversaries are the highlights of the game. All the player’s senses will be stimulated as the screen shows the climax of a visual orchestra while the music perfectly complements this with upbeat tunes and vocals. You are also required to franticly switch between weapons to survive these battles, but if you can keep your head cool and soak up the visuals and sound you might get into that ‘heightened state of awareness’ and almost meditatively beat the boss! This is a great sensation and really makes you feel like you are the master of this game!

Difficulty

Child of Eden might be considered by some as very difficult. Personally, I didn’t have much trouble with the game’s normal mode but I can see how the game might be too difficult as it requires quick reactions and good hand-eye coordination. The gap between the easy and normal difficulties might also be a little large: on easy you will play the game with a protection from all damage which frankly was a bit dull to me since you cannot die.  At the ‘normal’ difficulty you will take damage and a few un-countered missiles will mean having to play the level all from the beginning again.

The hard difficulty will really leave its players sweating, as there will now be more enemies that will fire more and more often, requiring quick reflexes, quick switching of weapons, pinpoint accuracy and nerves of steel to keep your head cool. This mode is challenging and I think will keep players entertained far longer than the normal difficulty as it requires a lot of practice.

Unlock heaven

For the players that love it when there are a lot of rewards to unlock in a game, Child of Eden will be a delight. There are many different things to unlock: art galleries, music videos, visual styles (changes the whole look of the game) and most importantly, new objects for your garden. The latter needs some explanation: each level is accompanied by a ‘garden’ in which enemies and objects from that level graciously move around. At first this garden is empty, but as you finish the level you are allowed to pick one of four objects to populate the garden with. Each unlockable object can also be upgraded two times so in order to unlock everything you’ll have to play each level twelve times!

An example of the beautiful art that can be unlocked

Like with all Xbox games Child of Eden also comes with a full range of achievements that can be unlocked. Players that love to unlock stuff will also love these achievements: they are hard to obtain and I think it will feel very good to finally reach that necessary skill level to obtain one of the harder and more elusive achievements .

Xbox controller

In the interest of science I also tried to play Child of Eden with the regular Xbox controller and I must say that this works pretty well. Targeting and shooting is easy and fluid and switching weapon is actually faster than with Kinect! So in terms of control Child of Eden is perfectly playable with the Xbox controller. In terms of play experience and feeling I would however strongly advise you to avoid this control method. Using the Xbox controller just takes away the immersion and almost degrades the play experience to that of an ordinary arcade shooter. Kinect is absolutely the way to go here and the label “Better with Kinect” could not have been more truthful.

Pain

Child of Eden is one of the least physically demanding Kinect games I have played. There is no running, no jumping and no dancing. Still, the game might leave you with a sore arm if your biceps are in the same dramatic state as mine. The entire time you will play Child of Eden you will have your arm raised up and extended. This gets very exhausting after some time and the continues arm flicking to fire the primary weapon actually left me with quite some pain the day after a long play session. This might not apply to you but I had to take a long break after every hour of playtime.

I want more!

Although Child of Eden is pretty perfect when it comes to play experience it is also remarkably short. There are a total of five archives (levels) that each takes about ten to fifteen minutes to complete. This means that a moderately skilled player will see the credits roll about an hour after they popped in the game disc for the first time. This is not entirely true as it is almost always required to play some archives twice to obtain enough ‘stars’ to unlock the latter archives, but it still won’t take more than two hours.  Finishing the game will unlock hard and challenge mode but ‘hard’ is just a repetition of the same content with more enemies and ‘challenge’ mode looks pale in comparison to the rest of the game.

There is the argument that there is a lot of replayability to Child of Eden as there is a lot to unlock. The competitive player might also get a lot more out of Child of Eden as the leaderboards will provide the drive to keep replaying archives to improve the final score and maybe obtain that almost unattainable spot at the top of the leaderboards. However for players who do not really care about unlocks and leaderboards this game will be painstakingly short and will leave its players craving for more.

It also doesn’t help that there is no multiplayer option in Child of Eden. A co-op mode where I could jump into the world of Eden and experience the game with a friend would increase replayability and add a whole new dimension to the game. If there ever will be a sequel, a co-op mode would occupy the top spot of my wish list.

Not for everyone

Personally I think Child of Eden is a great game, but I can really appreciate a game with stunning art, a great soundtrack and controls that provide immersion. If you are however not into that kind of artsy stuff you will probably not like Child of Eden that much. Gameplay wise there is just not that much to do: You just lock on to stuff and shoot. It’s the combination of all the elements that make this such a great game and play experience. So I just want to give that as a bit of a warning before closing this review: Child of Eden is certainly not for everyone and if you think that the screenshots accompanied with this review are ‘dull’ or ‘boring’ I don’t think you would like the game that much.

Conclusion

Child of Eden is a great game that accomplishes the perfect synergy of senses between visuals, sound and touch to create an incomparable play experience that immerses the player and leaves a sensational feeling. The implementation of Kinect is the best I have ever seen in a game and the controls are responsive, intuitive and fluid.

What keeps this great game from being an exceptional game is the lack of multiplayer and the fact that it is very short (even though it is a full retail game). The game is also not for everyone as it is very important for the player to be able to appreciate the art in the graphics and sound.

Child of Eden left a huge emotional mark on me and I am very thankful to its developers for bringing me this unique experience. Bring on the DLCs, or even better, a sequel! Istran Dulos


This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of Child of Eden
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