When Child of Eden was given to me to review, the first thing many people asked me, after having seen what it's all about, was, "How the heck are you going to describe this game? It's true, this style of game is unlike anything that has come out before, which is precisely why it makes the game all the more entertaining. Breaking new ground in the gaming world is always a hard feat, yet Ubisoft achieved a great result with their efforts in Child of Eden.
The story begins with a high-quality video of a ridiculously beautiful girl in white, Lumi, who's within the perfect world of Eden itself. As she interacts with the scenery, a binary-like intruder appears and begins to infect her world. She panics as this virus engulfs Eden, and Lumi herself is taken over and disappears. The game ends the scene with the words: "Save Eden. Save Lumi." Thus begins your quest.
The level screen shows Lumi floating beautifully in all-white in the centre of the screen, with several different planets slowly circling around the starry universe. You are only able to access one planet to start, with the difficulty of the level reflecting the fact it's the first planet. As you complete each level, you earn stars which accumulate and go toward unlocking other planets, with the hardest planets being the last to unlock. You can also customize Lumi's background based on what you've unlocked in each planet, changing the creatures, surfaces, and even the tune, of the level selection screen. Once you choose a planet to play, you are delved into a mini-musical adventure, with you as the conductor.
With your hands as your weapons, the first planet guides you through a tutorial as you play, so you can learn the simple rules to the game. Your right hand is a lock-on gun, where you scan over your targets to lock-on, and when you're ready or the gun is at maximum-lock, you 'pow' your hand to shoot. Your left hand is a rapid-fire gun, where you simply hold your hand up and it ratta-tatta's all the baddies you aim for. As you progress in the game, certain viruses can only be eradicated with certain guns, so you must change it up accordingly. Even further on in the game, if you shoot something with the wrong gun, bombs will spurt out and you'll have that much more trouble to deal with.
There's also a weapon called 'Euphoria', which appears as a floating purple and black orb that you activate by raising your hands up into a 'halleluiah' pose; this affects all enemies on the screen which can be a life-saver at times. Blue life orbs will appear periodically as well and, so long as you shoot them, they will add to your health meter.
As you play, purple bombs are shot at you by various enemies at various intervals. It's enough to keep you busy, but not so much that you wish you had a physical controller to throw. Since they are purple-coloured, just like purple enemies, you can only use your rapid-fire gun to destroy them. You'll hear a particular sound while they're still a threat to you, and the screen will point in the direction they're coming from so you know where to shoot. If it's off-screen, you simply hold your hand to the far side of the screen to 'turn' and face a new section of the level and eradicate those bombs.
The visuals are stunning, constantly changing and keeping your retina's busy. Since CoE is a rail-shooter you don't even have to worry about whether you're going the right way; you're free to absorb yourself in the eye-candy without too many repercussions. I can guarantee that everyone who plays this will have several "whoa" moments as they go, even more-so as you're fighting a boss; when it's about to be cured of the virus, crazy splashes of an animated Lumi flash on-and-off in a strobe-light fashion in the background, giving a visual impression of her trying to break free.
It's no wonder this game has a seizure warning, but what a seizure it would be!
A great feature that really has you feeling involved is the difference in sound-fx, based on which gun you use. Your senses are already feeling greatly overwhelmed (in an awesome way) by the visuals and the music, so adding on the idea that each gun plays a different sort of musical 'sound' as you shoot it makes it all the better.
You can play the game with the Xbox controller, but it's not even half as fun and, surprisingly, it's a lot less accurate. I played better using the Kinect, plus it felt more 'magical' as I stood there waving my hands to restore order instead of sitting and jabbing at buttons.
There are only two things that could have been improved, one being the gun transitioning, and the other having to do with there being no checkpoints. Since you cannot use two guns (two hands) at once, you need to remember to keep the hand you're not using still and by your side so the Kinect will focus on the hand you want. This proves to be a nuisance when you're fighting multiple enemies that require different guns as you have to keep changing your hand; several times I'd switch guns and the game would follow the hand I wasn't using, moving the screen with it and giving enemies a window while I flailed until it would recognize the hand I'd want it to. There is an option to change the controls, so you can simply clap to switch guns, but between the two I found the clapping to be not as efficient when battling numerous enemies at once.
As for the levels, each time you complete one you get to unlock an item from that planet's Garden to be displayed on that planet's version of the level-select background; there's no question they were designed to be replayed several times over. With that said, it becomes very frustrating when you're playing a level, you get really far and die, only to have to start from the very beginning. Each level has obvious 'sections' to it, so I don't see why you can't start from the beginning of the section you were in when you died instead of playing the whole thing over again. Having to start from 'scratch' of sometimes really long levels in order to unlock just one thing will make you a wee bit frustrated, especially if you're not very good and have to replay the level 'x' amount of times just to finish it. Yes, while it's very fun and you will 100% want to replay the levels anyway, it's one of those games where inevitably you'll become the master of the first half of each level, while remaining an amateur of the last half of each.
Even so, should Ubisoft release some DLC of the same calibre as what's already in-game, I can see this becoming a permanent addition to anyone's collection.
How would I describe Child of Eden in the end? It's a game that has you conducting a symphony of music and colour, composed by a talented producer with A.D.D. It's a visual representation of pure imagination, complete with its own soundtrack. It's what people on excessive hallucinogens must see when they hear electronic music, and you don't have to take anything to see it too. I could describe it a million ways, and yet not one description will be adequate. Simply put, it is an experience, and one that everyone needs to try. Child of Eden is waiting for you to, "Save Eden. Save Lumi."