Aug 172011

Status: Completed all levels (final level in “Feel Eden” mode)

Most Intriguing Idea: Gameplay as synaesthesia.

Best design decision: The “Feel Eden” mode

Worst design decision: Having modes that are not “Feel Eden”

Details: Child of Eden is not a game about frantically shooting purple missiles before they hit you, but it certainly feels that way much of the time. The overall aesthetic of the game seems to be oriented towards creating a dreamlike synaesthetic experience, but the possibility of death, and even in some ways the idea of having a “score” work against that aim. Moreover, Child of Eden is pretty difficult, and quite unforgiving. There are no checkpoints or continues, so dying, even at the very end of a level, means repeating the whole thing

In terms of the encounters themselves, failure to use the lock-on gun perfectly often results in more purple missiles being fired, and the time lost in shooting those down will usually lead the player to miss more lock-on shots, resulting in more missiles, etc. As a result, Child of Eden actually becomes a harder game the worse you are at playing it. This seems like an insane choice to me (especially in light of the casual Kinect audience), one guaranteed to create panicked play and frustrated players, whose anger at the game blocks the very emotions it’s trying to inspire. As with de Blob 2, this seems to be a case where misguided adherence to convention interferes with the game’s aesthetic goals. The danger-free “Feel Eden” mode is more like what the game should have been, but unfortunately one cannot unlock new levels in this mode. When it works, Child of Eden is great, but too often it devolved into a frantic and frustrating scramble to survive, rather than engage with, its levels.

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