When Q Entertainment drops its sensory-overload-bomb on the Xbox 360 this June, you'll have a choice to make: do you play with a controller, or do you go with Kinect?
After spending quite a bit of time with Child of Eden over the past few weeks, I've got my preference locked in: it's the controller. It's not that the "hands free" Kinect controls don't work, or don't feel accurate -- they do, albeit feeling a bit "floaty" and disconnected. My predilection for playing Child of Eden with a controller is entirely dependent on the feedback from the controller's vibration, which ties directly into the game's hypnotic music, as well as the gameplay.
Child of Eden plays much like designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi earlier game, Rez, with your main attack a "lock on" shot. By passing over targets with your lock-on shot reticule, you can snap on to up to eight targets. Releasing the shot will then send a blast out, destroying your marks. Release at the right time (the "right time" being on the beat of the music track that's playing) and you'll get what they call a "Perfect Octa-lock" release. Doing these successfully results in a higher multiplayer, and therefore higher scores and more stars (the game's currency for unlocking new levels as well as in-game extras).
So as you can imagine, that pulsating piece of plastic in your hand can go a long way towards providing key gameplay feedback. But it's more than that. Surely, anyone with a sense of rhythm could count off the beats of the music, usually based around a thumping, repeating bass thump. Part of what what makes playing Child of Eden such a joy is getting lost in the game, fully emerging yourself into the game's levels or "Archives." That tactile feedback is something that's completely absent when you rely on Kinect, and I found myself missing it when it wasn't there.
The game's secondary fire is the tracer, something you didn't have at your disposal in in Rez. This purple rapid fire shot can be used to both protect you from incoming projectiles, as well as do extra damage to certain enemy types. Basically if you see purple coming your way, you're going to want to shoot it down with the tracer, simple as that.
Don't worry, I'm not all gloom and doom on Child of Eden's Kinect support. While you don't get the same sense of feedback, there is something to be said about making simple, intuitive movements with your arms to help immerse you in the game's Archives. Since the gameplay essentially has you floating around on rails through these spectacular worlds, standing in front of television with your hands outstretched does lend itself immersive (although slightly tiring) experience.
Also interesting to note: the game keeps separate leaderboards and score-to-star calculations depending on whether you're playing with Kinect or the controller. It seems that if you truly want to explore everything Child of Eden has to offer, you'll want to master both control schemes.
The build Ubisoft sent out to me was surprisingly robust, giving me a huge chunk of Child of Eden to travel through. This included four of five archives: Matrix, Evolution, Beauty, and Passion. What was so surprising was how different each of these journeys through the Archives were. While the gameplay remains consistent from Archive to Archive, the experiences are so vastly disparate I was actually shocked. The music (supplied by Genki Rockets of "every other Q Entertainment game" fame) doesn't just change; the entirely world does. Describing them doesn't entirely do it justice, so I've provided some videos below. But keep in mind much of what makes Child of Eden so great is experience it first-hand with virgin eyes. Read: spoiler alert.
One game mode not included on the disc was something Q Entertainment is calling "Hope" that unlocks once all of the game's Archives are completely on "Normal" difficult. (There are five Archives total, the fifth being "Journey" which was not playable on my preview disc.) This special challenge mode is made up of "cubes and particles" and will take about 30 minutes to complete from start to finish. While the difficulty is still being tweaked, it's expected that "Hope" will be the game's toughest challenge.
Child of Eden also features a massive cache of unlockable bonuses like art, movie galleries, and more. Much of it was already accessible on my disc, but I'll most of that for you to discover on your own.
Other extras include the ability to add sound effect filters to game music on the fly, including high-pass, low-pass, reverb, and echo. You'll aos be able to add beatbox style variations to tracks while playing, which changes the sound that plays when you lock onto enemies and more. Score another one for hands with these extras -- they're controller-only.
As if the game's visuals weren't mind-bendingly gorgeous out of the box, you'll also be able to unlock special visual effect modes as you play through the game. You can give the game a classic gaming feel with the "17bit" filter, or even go mostly monochrome (with some colors for impact) with the black and white "Memories."
Child of Eden is out for Xbox 360 on June 14; a PlayStation 3 version is slated for release this fall. If your heart skips a beat at the mere thought of Rez, don't hesitate to pick this up.