In the future, the first human being born in outer space is a girl named Lumi, and her only knowledge of Earth comes from the sight of its distant greens and blues from her home among the stars. At least that's what renowned video game designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi and his team at Q Entertainment say in Child of Eden, a rhythm action game originally developed for Kinect and now on the PlayStation 3.
Lumi's life in space serves as the backdrop of Child of Eden, but the game itself takes place years later, following Lumi's death. Mankind works to recreate Lumi's existence inside massive stores of online information known as Eden. Upon the successful launch of Project Lumi, a virus attacks the artificial girl and threatens mankind's efforts. It's your job, dear player, to stop it.
The plotline of Child of Eden only contextualizes its cacophony of flashing lights and pulsing beats, but I loved the setup -- especially watching Lumi float peacefully in the background. I'd argue that Child of Eden's "story" and ambience remain its strongest assets, as the short single-player experience lacks mechanical depth and -- in many cases -- frustrates through repetition.
Like Mizuguchi's Rez before it, Child of Eden presents a series of on-rails Archives, or stages, that must be purified by you with a whole lot of shooting. Both a traditional controller and a PlayStation Move controller can be used, though I preferred the DualShock at almost every turn. Although the Move can be calibrated in-game to an extent, the reticle movement doesn't feel like you're pointing and shooting. Instead, I wrestled with dragging the reticle across the screen and often suffered damage from enemy fire because I couldn't aim quickly enough.
Assuming you find a control scheme that works for you, Child of Eden won't challenge your gaming skills. Each Archive funnels you down a path filled with enemies and a few obstacles. Use either your lock-on shot or a rapid-fire attack to purify the infected data and move on to face a boss battle filled with visual spectacle.
From a raw gameplay perspective, Child of Eden disappoints me. The bland shooting mechanics aren't fun, and you have to replay Archives multiple times to earn stars that unlock the next Archive. In other words, you're forced to grind repeatedly to see Child of Eden's already limited number of stages. It seems as if the developers at Q Entertainment spent more time addressing the sights and sounds of Eden rather than designing a gameplay model that I'd want to come back to.
There are other annoyances to be found in Child of Eden, including a few glitches I discovered while trying to switch between Move and traditional controls, but all those pale in comparison to the apathy I felt for the gameplay. The most interesting moments tend to pop up when you have to think about how to defeat an enemy or pass a checkpoint quickly. But once you figure it out, that Archive suddenly loses its appeal.
Enemy patterns and obstacles don't change from one session to the next, which is the inherent game design danger in on-rails shooters. Sure, I could play the stage again (and I have to in this case) and try to play it better, but that's about it. And considering Child of Eden's limited stage selection and repetitive unlock structure, the short amount of time I spent with it grew tiresome quickly.
With that said, Child of Eden crafts a rare experience for those of you interested in Mizuguchi's sensible infatuation with synesthesia. It blends abstract visuals, fantastic music, and controller vibration together into one whole. And as former IGN Editor Arthur Gies once said of Child of Eden: "It's like living in the fantasies of Ryan Clements."