Child Of Eden Hands-On Preview [PAX 2011]

Despite the fact that Microsoft has sold upwards of 10 million Kinects since launch, I have been very cynical of the platform.  Aside from Dance Central, there haven’t been any show-stopping games, and even DC suffers from limited playability.  Add to that the fact that you need to have a fairly sizeable living room to use Kinect properly, and there are a lot of reasons to steer clear.

But just like that, I’ve changed my mind.  Today I renounce my skepticism.  Today, I played Child of Eden.

Child of Eden is a musical shooter from Ubisoft and Rez mastermind Tetsuya Mizuguchi.  While CoE isn’t a sequel, you could call it a reimagining of the musical-shooter for a new generation.  If you haven’t played Rez, the basic premise of a Rhythm-shooter is that enemies will appear and move in sync with the game’s music, which is generally some kind of fast-paced Techno or House.

It wouldn’t be completely off-base to call it an interactive visualizer – your hands follow sets of colorful enemies on screen which, in turn, follow a beat.  There is a story which involves you helping to protect the entirety of human knowledge (the internet) from viruses, but it doesn’t matter much. Rather than looking to suck you in with addicting play or an intelligent story, Eden tries to grab you with purely experiential gameplay. Achievements don’t matter and score doesn’t matter. The game asks you to live completely in the moment. That being said, don’t worry, there are actually achievements and a score system.

At its core, Child of Eden is a very simplistic game.  Each hand functions as a different gun; your left hand is a rapid-fire weapon, you use it by sticking your hand out and directing the fire by pointing. Meanwhile, your right hand is a more power single shot that you operate by pushing your hand at the screen. Experienced Kinect players won’t have any problems handling the controls, but newer users might need a minute to figure out the correlation between your hand and the reticule. Don’t worry though, when I say minute I mean that literally – all you have to do is start playing, and things will come naturally.

Now, core gamers might claim that such a simple game lacking in customization, micro-managing and complexity isn’t for them.  If you don’t do that much in the game, how is it going to keep my interest?  Well, while the game isn’t physically demanding – you spend a lot of time simply pointing your hand at the screen – when you play it you’ll see that it’s not really a problem. Like a moth drawn to a flame, you will be so entranced by the visuals of this game and how you control them. Technically, you could control Child of Eden sitting on the couch since you only control the game with arm movements. That’s not how you’ll play want to play it though – being on your feet further integrates you into the experience. And Child of Eden provides quite the experience.

Child of Eden will be ready to rock your world on June 14th.  In the mean time, go buy a smaller couch.