Somebody hug me. Child of Eden is stunning. Also, playing like a knob-head is entirely optional

If you don’t like cosmically approved on-rails shooter Rez you might as well get out now. We’re not going to get along. That’s the reality. I love Rez so much it’s on my friend criteria checklist along with cats, garlic, Wes Anderson movies and a bunch of other stuff that I cannot disclose.

So I was excited when I recently attended an event in fancy London to play Rez sequel Child of Eden, which is headed to Xbox 360 in June and PS3 on a still TBA date. Making me even more excited was the news that Tetsuya Mizuguchi, the genius behind Rez and Child of Eden and one of my gaming heroes, was going to be there.

This is what Child of Eden looks like:

Above: The girl is Lumi. She’s the human personality designed to exist inside Eden. Eden is the archive of all human memories. But Lumi is under attack from a virus. Save Lumi!

But I was also a bit scared. Not scared in a ‘I think I can hear someone downstairs sharpening a knife’ kind of way. No. More in a ‘I hope they haven’t ballsed this up for the sake of making it compatible with Kinect’ kind of way. But it’s not been ballsed up. Far from it. I was so blown away playing Child of Eden that my happiness bordered on the uncontainable. It made me want to hug somebody. Actually engage with another human being in a physical embrace. Here’s why…

It looks spectacular

The first thing you notice about Child of Eden is how completely sexy it makes your eyes feel. This game looks good. Eye-blowing. It looks nothing like a movie and everything like a video game. If you asked some Pong-playing hippies back in the Stupid Ages what they thought video games would look like in 30 years, they would probably attempt to describe something like this:

Above: Like this, but in motion, with music and in glorious HD

Child of Eden’s world’s are called ‘archives’ and it has five of them. Each has its own visual style. ‘Matrix’ is geometrical fireworks inside a circuit board of shiny Aztec gold. ‘Evolution’ is neon manta rays floating through a void of luminous plankton constellations. ‘Beauty’ is crystal butterflies shattering into a million tiny pieces. Please. Somebody hug me. Child of Eden is one of the most visually spectacular and beautiful things I’ve ever seen on an HD TV.

You don’t *have* to look like a knob-head when playing it

I like to play video games with a controller. The prospect of having to stand up to play games is bad enough, but factor in the potential for looking like a total knob-head while you’re about it and I’d rather not get involved. I mean, look at the knob-heads in this Child of Eden trailer:

They look like demented magicians casting stupid spells at the telly. Not for me. Turns out, though, if you want to play Child of Eden using Kinect you don’t have to do it like this. At the event, Mizuguchi played through the Matrix archive and at no point did he look ridiculous.

His movements were subtle, entirely acceptable gestures. Inspired by the Miz’s display, I put the controller down and played using Kinect. It took a little getting used to and at times I wished for the instant responsiveness of a proper controller, but generally it was good. A lot of fun. I can definitely see myself playing Child of Eden using Kinect. I never thought I’d say that. Unbelievable and well worthy of hugging an unexpecting passerby.

The music sounds perfect

Anyone that’s played Rez will know the game’s soundtrack is an essential part of the journey. Rez without music would be like Call of Duty without guns. Or Portal without portals. Imagine that. And Child of Eden is as every bit the slightly wanky sounding synergistic audio/visual experience as its synesthesia loaded predecessor. Click the video to hear ‘Heavenly Star’, one of the Genki Rockets tunes that Child of Eden will put in your ears:

From the music I heard, Child of Eden’s soundtrack is perfectly tuned to what’s happening on screen. It’s ambient in the right places. It’s banging in the right places. It’s hands-in-the-air euphoric in the right places. It’s different to what we heard in Rez, but it feels like a natural evolution.

And, like Rez, targeting and shooting enemies adds layers of cymbals or snares or claps or squelchy acid noises or whatever. When it’s all working together it’s an intensely zen and rhythmically pulsating rush-hour orgy for the synapses. Beautiful. Hug now please.

It could actually be better than Rez

From what I’ve seen so far, it’s not total mental gas to suggest that Child of Eden could actually end up being better than Rez. As I’ve already mentioned, the game looks and sounds hug-me spectacular. But it’s also a complete geek dream to play. It’s very definitely like Rez, only with a few changes. Good changes. For starters, there’s no avatar. Just a reticule. At first I didn’t like this change. But I quickly warmed to it. Losing the avatar completely declutters the screen. Which means a big techno-canvas of unimpeded HD ocular beauty to gaze into.

Above: No avatar means more lovely screen to look at

The familiar lock-on weapon has been joined by a new rapid fire weapon (controlled with your left-hand if played using Kinect). The rapid-fire is more effective against certain enemies than the lock-on, so some multi-tasking shooting is required. Generally, the rapid fire is especially good for shooting pink things. Things that are pink. You’ll work it out. Crucially, the introduction of this new weapon doesn’t break anything. It mixes things up and adds a little tactical element.

Above: Pink things. Shoot them with rapid-fire

Child of Eden also uses a score mechanic. Rez only offered a system of skill-based numerical accumulation in a designated Score Attack mode. In Child of Eden, the faultless destruction of a group of enemies, for example, presented me with an on-screen message of ‘Perfect’ along with a multiplier. I couldn’t spot where my score was being stored – it didn’t seem to be included as one of the stats at the end of each archive. But still, it’s in there somewhere and adding score to the core game mode will doubtless be another reason to keep playing. I’m hugging myself.

Over a decade old and Rez is still a masterpiece

When I got home from the Child of Eden event, I got straight on Rez HD. Played through all the areas. Boosh. Despite it being the game I’ve returned to the most over the last decade or so, Rez still blows my head with how good it is.

Above: This is Rez. It’s still amazing

The shooting is simple yet stupidly satisfying. The sheer imaginative scale of the bosses never fails to impress. The music always *always* puts me in the zone. And I got to thinking, if Rez still feels this good, is still this much fun to play, is still this impressive, then imagine how good Child of Eden is going to feel. Like Rez but potentially better. Excited doesn’t even come close. This is the part where we hug and dive into the sky.

April 18, 2011

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