With its trippy visuals, Q Entertainment’s “Child of Eden” is a different kind of shooter. Like “Rez,” Q’s 2001 cult hit, “Eden” has a convoluted, cyberpunk-inspired story involving protecting some computer code from corrupting influences. In reality, the story matters little. “Child of Eden” is all about traversing a lush, digital environment and shooting stuff while you listen to a fantastic soundtrack of electronic music.
Though “Child of Eden” supports traditional controllers, I had a blast using Kinect to control the action. (The game, due out this summer, can also be played using standard controllers.) The bulk of the action was controlled by my right arm, which I used to target and shoot colorful, psychedelic enemies. I had a choice between two weapons. One provided a steady rate of fire and automatically shot whatever I pointed at, and the targeted multiple enemies as I swept the reticule over them, then fired when I flicked my wrist. Toggling back and forth between these two modes was as simple as clapping.
Choosing which weapon to use isn’t as simple as picking your favorite, though. Each attack is good in particular situations. The weapon with the steady rate of fire, for example, is weak and does relatively little damage, but it’s also capable of shooting down any projectiles your enemies fire at you. The lock-on gun does a lot of damage, but it leaves you vulnerable to projectile attacks and feels a little clunkier to use. Balancing the two weapons and switching back and forth seemed crucial to success.
Like all good shooters, “Child of Eden” also comes with screen clearing bombs, which are activated by throwing your hands up in the air. If I were smart, I’d have saved this for the demo’s final boss battle to see how it affected that shootout, but instead I blew up run-of-the-mill enemies.
Like “Rez,” and other Q games such as “Lumines,” a key part of what made the “Child of Eden” demo so enjoyable was the synchronization of gameplay and music. As I pointed the weaker, steadily-firing gun and used it to mow down enemies, they made plinky musical noises as they vanished from sight, blending the feeling of playing a video game with a feeling of playing a composition, or conducting an orchestra. The fact that so much of the action is unfurled by waving your right arm around and cuing weaponry enhances this “conductor” feeling.
My only concern thus far is that the “Child of Eden” demo was pretty easy. Now, it’s pretty common for developers showing off an upcoming game to dial the difficulty level down a bit. Having a bunch of game journalists dying over and over again at demos probably isn’t the best way to ensure favorable coverage for your product. But, because Kinect is still pretty new hardware, it’ll be hard to believe your arms alone can control a typical difficult shoot-’em-up until we actually see it happen a few times.