Child of Eden Updated Hands-On: Evolution and the Journey Project

We get a look at a new level in Q Entertainment’s upcoming shooter and find out about the game's unique ending.

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Q Entertainment held a small gathering during this year's Tokyo Game Show to give journalists an update on Child of Eden, the upcoming multiplatform shooter set to hit this spring. The game, the spiritual successor to the cult classic Rez, tasks you with cleansing an archive of human memory that has been overrun with viruses. Child of Eden made a big splash at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, thanks to its distinctive gameplay and presentation, which set it apart from nearly all the Kinect titles shown off for Microsoft's new motion-control peripheral. The positive impression the game made on us in June was reinforced during the presentation from Q, as founder and Child of Eden creative director Tetsuya Mizuguchi showed off a new level and explained how the game's unique ending will be powered by a collective user-submitted movement called the Journey Project.

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The presentation started with Mizuguchi running attendees through a brief history of his work in games that showed his professional and personal journey to creating a game like Child of Eden. Longtime fans of the veteran publisher's work should know his resume fairly well, kicking off with work at Sega that included Sega Rally, Space Channel 5, and Rez, and then shifting to Lumines and winding up at Child of Eden--with a few detours along the way, such as his concept band Genki Rockets and playing at Live Earth.

Once the presentation was out of the way, Mizuguchi played through an updated version of the E3 demo, using Kinect, which has seen quite a bit of visual polish since we last saw it in June. In terms of content, the level was in line with what we remember: a trippy journey through a level of abstract geometry that is reminiscent of a level in Rez. Mizuguchi followed up with the first showing of a new level called Evolution, using a controller. The work-in-progress level, which had yet to be optimized for play with Kinect, started on Earth in an underwater environment that focused on cleansing a whale, and then once Free Willy was all clear, it shifted up to the sky and into space. The animal in need of cleansing in the sky was, unsurprisingly, a massive phoenix-like bird that flared in a massive flash of light as the level ended.

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Mizuguchi closed the presentation with the unveiling of the Journey Project: a unique and artsy initiative Q is starting in order to gather material for the game's ending. As we mentioned earlier, Child of Eden is about purging a repository of human memory of viruses. The end goal of the game is to clear all the archives of viruses. To make the game's ending something special, Q is asking gamers to participate in the Journey Project, which is a collection of user-submitted imagery. The recently announced initiative calls on users to submit personal photographs for the team's consideration for inclusion in the game's ending. Also, before anyone gets any ideas, the pictures will be screened by Q, so don't send in pictures of your junk.

Following the presentation, we were able to try the two levels Mizuguchi demoed and were just as taken with the game as we were at E3. Given that our first experience with the game was using Kinect, it was interesting to play the Evolution level with the Xbox 360 controller. There was a definite Rez feel to playing the game, which suited us just fine.

The visuals in the two levels on display offered a good sense of the progress that the team is making. The E3 level has been polished up a good deal, featuring sharper visuals and more effects, which make it pop all the more. The new evolution stage isn't quite as shiny, but it features a trippy framework in its design and overall flow. We expect the team will load it up with visual craziness to match the music and game narrative.

The other major element to the Child of Eden experience, the music, was in fine form in both of the levels. The thumping beats and bouncy flow of the two Genki Rockets tunes, both totally at home in either a game or a club, provided a perfect, fluid accompaniment to the gameplay. While it worked nicely to listen to the music out of the monitor speakers, we have to say the game really needs to be played with a nice pair of headphones to appreciate the marriage of music and visuals--either that or blasted out of your home entertainment center, but we reckon neighbors and or roommates might have some issues.

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Based on this latest update, we have to say we're more excited than ever to play Child of Eden. The game seems poised to hit the sweet spot that Rez did all those years ago with a stylish combination of music and visuals that serve up a unique experience that you just don't see in games that often. The added twists of Kinect support and the Journey Project bring new and interesting elements to the gameplay. Playing with Kinect adds a more immersive element that, while feeling a bit odd at first, is pretty cool. The Journey Project component to the game's ending sounds like it could be a very cool way to wrap up the experience. If you were a fan of the original Rez or are just looking for a game that's off the beaten path from the current crop of Kinect offerings, you will most certainly want to keep an eye out for Child of Eden when it ships this spring. Odds are you won't play anything quite like it in 2011. Look for more on the game in the months to come.

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