When Wii Music was first announced, I was really eager to play it. Before the realities of what the game ended up being came to light, the thought of conducting a virtual orchestra just sounded… awesome. In my mind’s eye, it would be a wonderfully immersive experience, as many layers of instruments were controlled with my hands.
Things obviously didn’t pan out that way. But strangely enough, I got exactly that feeling playing Child of Eden — and it was just as good as it was in my head.
So what is Child of Eden? Well, if you’ve played Rez on the Dreamcast or PlayStation 2, then all I need to say is that this one’s better, then go off and have a beer. But for everyone else, Child of Eden is an on-rails shoot ‘em up that takes you through pre-scripted 3D levels. Using a lock-on targeting system, you must shoot down enemies before they can hurt you, and then face off against an end-of-level boss.
That description says absolutely nothing about the experience of playing Child of Eden, however — and that’s what’s important. Playing through each level is an audio-visual treat for your eyes and ears, as neo-psychedelic backdrops and enemies fly past and the music responds dynamically to your every action. It’s like drowning in candy, particularly if you have a decent TV and sound system.
If you have a Kinect, it’s even better. Strange to think I just typed that sentence, but it’s true: this is my favourite Kinect game, and one that helps show off how it can actually improve a play session. It’s here that you feel like a conductor: sweeping your right hand over enemies causes them to be locked on. Pushing your hand forward shoots out bullets at all your acquired targets. Your left hand, meanwhile, is in control of a rapid-fire secondary weapon that needs to be employed at regular intervals. Finally, raising both hands into the air activates screen-clearing bombs.
It’s simple, to be sure, but it works. My flatmates were looking at me while I played, not understanding what was going on. But as soon as I got them to play it for themselves, they were entranced. “It feels like Harry Potter! It’s like I’m a wizard!” said one, although to be fair, we are in the midst of re-watching all the movies.
Oh, and there are normal controls, too. You lose a big chunk of the immersive experience, but you do gain accuracy. If you’re a score hound, you’ll be wanting to use a controller… but really, at least play through the whole game once with Kinect if you can. To my mind, it’s undoubtedly the superior control method.
A play through won’t take you very long. There’s only five levels, and while you need to acquire certain star ratings to unlock them all, you’ll manage fairly quickly. The value of a game like Child of Eden comes from replaying each level over and over, whether for a higher score or simply to submerge yourself in the experience again. If neither of those things sounds appealing to you, then you’re going to be disappointed at the offerings on hand here.
It’s strange: the story, along with some of the way it’s presented, is pretty silly. But I still got sucked in, purely because of the welcoming nature of every level, and the emphasis on bringing things back to life. It’s hard to maintain much cynicism in the face of something this joyful.
Looking desperately for a decent Kinect game? Child of Eden is definitely worth checking out. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but if you can find a way to try it out before buying, then you may be surprised at just how much you get into it.