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Destructoid review: PixelJunk Eden

11:10 PM on 08.04.2008 // 8BitBrian

Sometimes a game needs to be simplistic in order to be good. If you overcomplicate things with so many mechanics, the game gets bogged down, and you forget about having fun. At the same time, there needs to be a precise and refined quality to those mechanics in order to make the game enjoyable and attention-getting.

So with PixelJunk Eden, we have another title based on a simple premise. Does the game provide the same level of fun as PixelJunk Monsters? Does it create something that was lacking (or so I thought) like PixelJunk Racers? Besides the gameplay mechanics, Eden certainly is technically ambitious -- the first game with trophies, and it features video uploading capabilities.

You know what I'm going to say. Hit the jump for the review of the game from me and a special partner in crime!

PixelJunk Eden (PS3)
Developed by Q-Games
Published by SCEA
Originally released on July 31st, 2008

Brad Rice

It's easy enough to say: PixelJunk Eden is an experience. When I sit down to play it, the clock suddenly advances three hours, and I find that it's 2 a.m., and I should be in bed.

The premise of the game is simple: swing about and burst open pollen spore to pollenate nearby plants. You rack up points for destroying large groups of pollen spores in a single combo, and for creating as many plants in a single chain as possible. It's one of those games that is easy to get into, but a bit more difficult to master.

When you first start playing the game, the minimalist graphic styling, bright colors, and moody music create an experience that immediately engulfs you. For those of you who enjoyed Everyday Shooter, the game loses you in a combination of the audio and visual elements in a similar way -- although Eden is nowhere near as noisy as Everday Shooter was.

The game controls very simply: you aim yourself with the D-pad/control stick, and launch yourself with any of the four main buttons. Once you latch onto a plant, you can start racking up points by swinging yourself around, attached to a piece of silk. You can jump again to launch yourself off in the direction of whatever your heart desires after that. The mechanics allow you to just jump into play, and pick them up as the game goes along.

The constant draining of your life meter at the bottom of the screen is your perennial enemy. You have to rely on finding little tokens throughout the stage to replenish your life in small or large doses. You can actually create these bits by scoring combos in spore-killing or triggering flowers to bloom. The level ends when you've collected the requisite number of "spectra" for the playthrough.

For all the game's benefits, and its ultra-soothing nature, there are points in which the game is utterly frustrating. The game's swinging motion allows you to go great distances, or to reach something that's just barely out of reach. If you miss your target by any small amount, and I mean nearly any, you will sail right on by, and plummet down God-knows-how far. It can be one of those things that's a matter of life or death in the game, and you just barely miss saving yourself or clearing the level.

Another downside is that the generation of pollen spores is random. 95% of the time, the game is just fine and I get an abundance of pollen spores in areas where I can get to them. But there are times when I'll be swinging around, only to find no pollen spores anywhere nearby, and the only cluster of them way out beyond where I could possibly reach them. This only happened to me a couple of times, but it is the pitfall of randomly generated targets.

The faults of this game, though, are minor. The game is truly enjoyable not only by yourself, but with up to two other friends playing simultaneously. The game also allows you to upload playthroughs to YouTube or download them onto your system. You can see Zac's playthrough below, actually. The game has enough entertainment packed into it to make it a no-brainer purchase.

Score: 9.0
Verdict: Buy it!

Special Japanator guest reviewer Zac Bentz

PixelJunk Eden is simple done right. As Brad mentioned, controlling your little, um, bug...flea...imp guy within the cool Tron-like garden is very basic. Much like Super Mario Bros., all you really do is jump around and grab stuff. There's no big plot or hours of cinematics, just simple straightforward fun.

The real grabber is the almost subliminal increase in difficulty. It's a real "just one more level and then I'll quit" kind of game. It's just tough enough to be a challenge, but never too rough to make you want to destroy several hundred dollars worth of media equipment.  Plus, it's just too damn soothing to get really worked up about. Jumping around is very fluid and analog. You drift and float from plant to plant, slowly growing the weird, rather alien garden. Much like sci-fi space travel, there is always a feeling of exploration. There's always something new to see just around the corner, or up the next stalk, as the case may be.

There's also a lot for the OCD crowd to love. There are tons of trophies rewarding the collection of every pollen pod or for grabbing a ton of power-ups without touching anything along with the basic clearing of a level. There are also timed challenges, points gathering and co-op rewards. Then there's the Global Leaderboard, which automatically slots you in to the listings along with the thousands of other players, which even has a separate chart tracking just you and your friends. All of this makes for almost unending re-play possibilities. Plus, once you advance to the later, more brutal levels, you'll probably want to head back to the first stages just to relax and have a good time.

At its core, Eden is really just a huge Flash title taken to slightly deeper depths. Each stage is essentially the same, with new colors, plant-life and a new rule or two (like the gravity switching in stage 7 that's taken straight from the mind of an insane bastard), along with a few (but very few) enemies. Just when you start getting sick of the look and feel of the level you're on, a new one will open up and that obsessive fire will rekindle.

For the price, it totally delivers. Sure, it's a one-trick pony, but there are enough change-ups to make it consistently interesting. On the surface, it may look like a casual game, but look again. My wife, certainly no hardcore gamer, said that she'd have a hard enough time just playing the first level, let alone level 7 and its changing gravity. If you are thinking of completing this game, then you'll have to bust out some pretty hardcore skills and determination.

This is easily worth the $9.99. Time-wise, I'm not sure how "long" it is, because, as Brad mentioned, the hours will fly by. I don't think I'd want to pay any more for the full game, but I'd probably fork over the cash for some really cheap (say $1.99 or less) expansion levels.

Score: 9.0
Verdict: Buy it!

Final Score: 9.0!

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