The world bursts into clouds of candy-coloured squares. A sparkling whale transforms into a glowing phoenix. Water lilies spray purple pollen that pops when touched.
Welcome to Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s Child of Eden. On the box it’s called a multi-sensory experience. But that wooden, chosen-by-committee phrase doesn’t come close to capturing the throbbing, pulsating, hallucinogenic spirit that lies within.
Child of Eden builds on Rez, Mizuguchi’s earlier experiment in simulating the feeling of being high in a nightclub. Rez was an on-rails shooter that wowed with its lysergic visuals and semi-interactive soundtrack where each blast of laser fire and each explosion added new layers to the beats.
Child of Eden doesn’t stray far from that formula. It remains an on-rails shooter, the music is still your puppet and once again it takes place in a cyberspace realm where anything goes.
Where it departs from Rez is in the use of Kinect. Child of Eden’s Kinect controls free the player, turning them into the surreal conductor of the proceedings. The right hand targets and launches missiles, the left a tracer beam that cuts through enemies. Raising your arms above your head unleashes "euphoria", which wipes out danger in a flurry of purple waves.
The lag and inaccuracy that marred earlier Kinect games is absent. Child of Eden flows, leaving you to get lost in its kaleidoscopic worlds. You can use the normal controller too, but at the cost of some of what makes the game feel so unique.
Child of Eden is brief. Just five levels. But since it's all about the sensation of playing, there’s appeal in just revisiting its worlds – something the no-danger "free play" mode lets players soak up. Unconventional and mesmerizing, Child of Eden is – at last! – a game that makes a Kinect worth owning.