Impressions from Ubisoft’s ‘Child of Eden Experience’

Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s spiritual successor to Rez, Child of Eden, launches in the UK tomorrow but hundreds have already played it. How? Ubisoft have had a “Child of Eden experience” set up in the half fancy, half tragic Soho district of London since June 4th and, fashionably late, I visited it today.

The event (which runs for another 5 days) takes place across two floors, both of which the crew has garbed with hushed blue lighting, Eden inspired graffiti walls, a shit load of white netting and a bevy of titan TVs hooked up to Xbox 360s. It’s all very placid until someone opens the bathroom door (oil it maybe?)

Child of Eden has been dubbed a “synaesthesia shooter” but to those who speak English it’s a hybridisation of the music and on rails shooter genres. And it’s pretty damn cool.

Like Rez it’s a mash up of psychedelic visuals, exuberant music and simple mechanics. I’m not sure what you play as but whatever it is he/she/it moves automatically through the glorious neon worlds (of which there were 3 on display, I believe) leaving you to fire at anything vaguely representing another life form. This has something to do with rescuing Project Lumi from a nefarious virus but you could probably foist your own deep meaning into it somewhere. As bullets connect with wheeling whales, colossal phoenixes and all manner of other wonderfully imagined creatures, the music alters and continues to swell in real time in response to how you’re playing. In that sense it’s Rez, but in killer HD and with some new tunes.

The three demo booths at the “experience” are tailored to be played with Kinect and as someone who, prior to today, had yet to spend any time with the device, it struck me just how intuitive it was to use with Eden. The game is controlled entirely with your hands – no leaping around the living room involved here. Your left hand acts as the standard-issue machine gun-like weapon which, with Kinect at least, is constantly firing. You hold your hand out in a “woah, don’t shoot” motion (palm facing the screen) and simply window-wash where you want your bullets to land. The on-screen reticule is fittingly large and bullets tend to land where you’d hope as long as you’re aiming within a reasonable distance of your target. Your right hand controls a lock-on weapon with which you paint targets and then use a flick motion to reign hell down on all those elected for death. It’s a little awkward at first (particularly if you have both hands up at once, the game doesn’t like that) but by the end of a single level most of those playing had it mastered. There’s also one final weapon which hurls out a barrage of missiles, useful for escaping tight situations although we were told it was impossible to die during the demo. To activate the missiles you hoist both arms above your head like a bear might before smashing its prey’s skull, and then bring your arms crashing down.

Played with Kinect, Eden is surprisingly good fun but I don’t think I’d want to play the full game that way (not least of all because 12 minutes of holding your arm up is somewhat uncomfortable). There weren’t too many issues with the device not tracking properly – and the issues that were present could probably be attributed partly to the faint light conditions within the venue, although Eden is precisely the kind of game you’d play in the dark. I wouldn’t say it was accurate enough that I’d feel comfortable playing on anything but the easiest setting as it looks to be a reasonably challenging game, but out of all the Kinect ready games released so far it looks to me to be the most natural and absorbing to play.

Critical reception for Child of Eden has been thus far positive and the “experience” is worth investigating if you find yourself within walking distance of Dean Street. That said the game surfaces tomorrow so if you don’t happen to be meandering through the beating heart of London you could always buy it.

From my experience at the “experience”, I’d say it’s worth ponying up the coins for.

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