After having finally tried out “Child of Eden”, we confess to be utterly desolated. We so wanted to enjoy the game, for is it not the spiritual sequel to Mizuguchi’s masterpiece, “Rez”? But whereas “Rez” was a techno-voyage through cybernetic seas, a solemn, abstract deconstruction of Nature’s evolution and the dangers it faces in its digital apex, “Child of Eden” reads like a pathetic, naïve vision of life and conception, exuberantly adolescent and saccharine, as if the world were all roses and candy. It’s not an issue of criticizing the exquisite aesthetic and technical work involved in the game’s visual conception, but of questioning the expressive vectors that govern them. Whether this is a result of Ubisoft’s marketing angle or a mere authorial reverie we cannot say, but in an age governed by all but optimistic aspirations (especially in Japan), “Child of Eden” comes out sounding artificial and phony. The whole karaoke aesthetic, with the shiny neons, the pop-flavoured, chewing-gum music with sweet female vocalizations, the new age shooting that gives life instead of taking it; nothing makes any sense to us, and it goes to the point of being shocking to our senses and personal taste. It’s a child’s idea of ‘beauty’, all flashy colors, pinks and blues and yellows, peace and love and harmony and happiness all around, everyone living in communion, cute bears and pretty people holding hands together.
Perhaps even more disappointing is the fact that kinect in any way helps the experience. Controller in hand, “Eden” plays like “Rez 2.0”, which surely isn’t bad in of itself, but renders the work largely redundant. But in kinect mode, where you’d expect a psychedelic trance, you get an uninspired control scheme lacking in rhythm, which never comes to form the hypnotic dance Mizuguchi was so keen on selling – all you do is wave your hand to move the target reticule and wave it vigorously to shoot. And still, despite such limitations, the system is never robust enough to handle your input accurately, constantly going haywire and inevitably breaking the game’s flow (we concede Microsoft’s hardware might be to blame, but that doesn’t make us any happier with the result). Furthermore, we ended up verifying that which we feared most on these new body-enabled control schemes: concentrated as players are in intense psychomotor play, our brain simply loses its capacity to deal with the overload of audio-visual stimuli, filtering all the aesthetic work into a manageable minimum that allows for an efficient performance. To truly appreciate the aural and visual landscape, one must watch the game being played, therefore killing in the bud the synesthesic idealization that Mizuguchi initially envisioned for “Rez” and aspired to take to new heights with this new title. But if kinect is so detracting of the experience, one wonders why “Child of Eden” was even conceived.
We sincerely hope next time we play the game, we’ll look back at this text and find it dead wrong, shamefully absurd and downright idiotic. But until then, we assure you, we will whimper in discontent.