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Review: Child of Eden is immersive gaming at its best

"Child of Eden" functions much like Mizuguchi's previous work, "Rez," in that the player character is a static form.

Child of Eden

  • Developer: Q Entertainment
  • Publisher: Ubisoft
  • Classification: Everyone 10+

There was a moment midway through Q Entertainment's Child of Eden when I was pretty much convinced that laser beams were really shooting out of my hands.

My right arm was extended with my palm - the place from which I imagined energy was blasting - facing the screen. My ears, clamped in headphones, were showered by relentlessly upbeat, high-energy electronic music. I could see nothing else in my darkened living room save for the kaleidoscopic shapes and colours that were pulsing across my television. I was completely engaged, both mentally and physically. The illusion that I was inside the game was intense. And it felt wonderful.

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This is just the sort of immersive experience that Microsoft has been promising since it announced its controller-less Kinect peripheral two years ago. I was convinced it was a load of hooey until now.

The game's high-concept narrative is set inside Eden, a vast repository of human knowledge that exists in the far future. The scientists in control of this database want to recreate the personality of the first human ever to be born in space, a young woman named Lumi whose memories have been recorded and stored for hundreds of years. She is a beacon of love, hope and everything seen as good and Earthly by space-faring humanity.

But just as Lumi begins to emerge from Eden's digital womb, she is assaulted by corrupt data.

This is where the player comes in.

I stood in front of the television as the camera swept through trippy computer environments filled with palpitating lights and abstract imagery that melds geometric architecture with oddly organic forms, like whales and jellyfish. I took turns pointing with each hand to let loose attacks on points of orange and purple corruption as they appeared.

But - and this is the really clever part - rather than wreak havoc and destruction, I instead added to and transformed the environment with each strike.

Flowers blossomed, objects lit up and shifted shape, and quick snapshots of the beautiful Lumi appeared, superimposed on the virtual architecture. Each energy blast was accompanied by the synthesized sounds of drum beats and cymbal crashes, enhancing the game's determinedly cheerful, perpetually morphing electronic soundtrack. I became equal parts audience to, participant in, and creator of what I was experiencing.

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It's the most extraordinary Kinect experience yet. It's euphoric.

Of course, a lot depends on how naturally a player surrenders to the game's frenetic imagery and kinetic score (this isn't the kind of game to whip out when your grandparents visit to prove that they, too, can have fun with Kinect).

Plus, it's short. If you have the stamina, you can finish all five levels in a single night. Online leader boards, a bonus challenge mode and some hidden extras do a decent job of extending the experience, but it's still not as much content as one would normally expect of a $50 game.

However, if you really want to experience the immersive power of movement-based control, if you truly desire to feel as though you've made not just an emotional but a physical connection with a game, there is no better means than Child of Eden.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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About the Author
Game and Gadget Reporter

Chad Sapieha has been writing about video games and consumer gadgets for the Globe and Mail since 2003. His work has been published in magazines, newspapers, and Web sites across North America, and he has appeared as an expert on television and radio newscasts. More

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