Child of Eden Preview
- Posted Sep 28, 2010
When Tetsuya Mizuguchi and Ubisoft's Child of Eden was revealed at this year's E3, we all thought it looked impressive ... but we had no idea what it was. Was it even a game? We just saw someone waving their arms around in front of an explosive barrage of pixels, color, light, and music. Sort of like if your favorite music player's visualizer had come to life on a bigscreen. It looks really pretty, but is there any substance behind it?
In Tokyo, Ubisoft held an event designed to pull back the curtain on this game. We actually got our hands on it, and "in" it, as we played it with both the Xbox 360 controller, and Microsoft's upcoming Kinect. The good news is that yes, it still looks gorgeous, is very innovative, and will dazzle your senses. The bad news is we still don't really know exactly what it is. Although in all fairness, there are plenty of games (fl0w, Flower, Rez) that fit in that same "what the heck?" category that we enjoy playing over and over. Child of Eden looks like it will fit in there comfortably, while giving our retinas a real workout.
Mizuguchi-san presented the game to us in Tokyo, and spent much of the evening stressing the fact that he has been trying to bring together gaming and music ever since Space Channel 5
(which notably had Michael Jackson in it as Space Michael), and he's continued that trend through Rez
, which he produced, and Lumines
, which he developed after leaving Sega. He's also one of the producers behind the quasi-mysterious band Genki Rockets, which is a fake band fronted by Lumi, a fictional girl who was born in space on September 11, 2037 and has never been to Earth. Their music has appeared in games like Lumines II
and No More Heroes
, and based on this event they will be used heavily in Child of Eden
But what exactly is Child of Eden? According to the press release, "Child of Eden thrusts the player into the center of a battle to save Project Lumi, a mission to reproduce a human personality inside Eden, the archive of all human memories. As the project nears completion, the archive is invaded by an unknown virus. The player’s mission is to save Eden from the virus, restoring hope and peace." It's not clear if Project Lumi is the same Lumi from Genki Rockets, but she does appear in the game (usually in the form of a girl singing in the background of an archive), which seems to indicate that it's musically related at least.
In a nutshell, it's a game that represents synaesthesia: where one sense triggers reactions in another. At least, that's according to Mizuguchi. He wants this to be a fusion between sound and visuals, and to that end you play a "purifier" of sorts. Your role is to fly through different "archives," and purify them. You do this by firing two different weapons, a rapid-fire but low power machine gun of sorts and a lock-on blast, at the contaminated locations. And, when things get hairy, you can trigger a bomb that takes out everything on-screen. Purify the entire archive and it will "evolve" into something new.
Sound confusing? Even after playing it, I'm still not sure exactly what I was doing, other than blasting away at the colored "contaminations" until I was able to clear an entire archive. With a controller, you're either locking-on and firing your missile-type attacks, or switching to the rapid-fire weapon, which is not easy to aim and really best used for clearing groups of debris around other targets. The bomb (for lack of a better term) is very handy, especially when the action on-screen approaches a near seizure-inducing level of flashing lights and musical overload. It'll clear out everything that's currently visible, giving you a brief respite from the sensory bombardment.
With the Kinect, the game moves closer to Mizuguchi's desire to have audiences "touch" the music. Your hand is your weapon, and as you use it to target via the lock-on, you sweep your hand forward to fire. Clapping your hands, or bumping your fists together, switched between lock-on and rapid fire, and you raise both arms to trigger the bomb. We only had a limited time with the game, and there wasn't an immediate connection between the controls and the experience. If we had more time to explore the game using Kinect, we might have gotten used to it, but as it stands we were definitely able to enjoy the game more with the controller, not having to worry about waving a hand in the right direction.
Three different archives were shown, "Beauty," "Matrix," and "Evolution," and we got to play through Matrix and Evolution. Evolution is definitely the prettier of the two, with players attack barnacle-like contaminations on the body of a whale-like creature in space, which eventually evolves into an enormous red phoenix as you purify it. Matrix is much more technology based, and looks like something Tron might have a nightmare about after a very strong acid trip. Beyond what we were able to see, Mizuguchi said the team is working to add a HUD on top of the controls, to indicate things like how much you have purified that particular archive, and how many bombs you have remaining. Honestly, that itself will contaminate the beauty of this stunning, yet confusing game.
Mizuguchi also announced that he's adding something called the Journey project to the game, and he wants people to send in memories (in the form of photos) that he can add to the final archive in the game. When you clear the archive, the photos will be released, and your memories will become a part of the game. Deadline for submission is November 20, and you can send in your photos for consideration here: http://child-of-eden.us.ubi.com/.
Child of Eden may not be a game that deals in exact blacks and whites, but the innovative gameplay and the music represents a clear departure from the standard run and gun and sequel releases that continue to plague the video game pipeline. It's nice to see someone attempting to do something different, even if it requires a little shoehorning to get into your brainpan.