Back when motion controls were something new for video game consoles, Tetsuya Mizuguchi announced Child of Eden for Xbox 360 with Kinect support. It was exciting that the creator of Rez would finally create a sequel or a spiritual successor with Rez HD being released for Xbox 360 as well.
But it was not to be, Kinect kind of flopped despite Microsoft pushing it immensely (something that cost the Xbox One dearly) and with it Child of Eden kind of floated to the background for me as well. Which is utterly stupid of me, as there even was a PlayStation 3 version with normal controller support.
Punch in the face
So with Mizuguchi’s grand return of Rez Infinite for PlayStation VR, Child of Eden suddenly popped back into the foreground. Oh yes, here’s that other game you didn’t know you’ve been clamouring to play, yet completely forgot about. I simply needed another injection of Rez, regardless of what platform and control scheme was needed and Child of Eden suddenly seemed appetising. Having the PlayStation 3 still underneath the television also helped (my fifth Xbox 360 gave the ghost many moons ago) and a digital download later I was finally playing Child of Eden.
And I kind of want to go back in time and punch myself in the face for not playing this sooner. By all accounts, this is Rez 2. Sure, it adds a secondary fire suddenly differentiating targets and incoming fire, but the lock-on, the opponents, the actual feel of it is far closer to Rez than I ever anticipated.
Being partial to techno music, Child of Eden’s own soundtrack didn’t appeal and now that I’m listening to the entire Genki Rockets album, I’m not entirely enticed by its J-pop elements. But the way it blends in with the game and forms a backdrop still makes it acceptable and part of the experience.
Two main changes
Still, the previously mentioned feel of the game is the most important. Certain targets and their movement patterns seem to have been lifted from Rez wholesale and the lightshow spectacle is even more grandiose than Rez’s rudimentary “cyber wireframe” aestethics. It also does away with most of the rigid corridor and gate approach of Rez, which changes things twofold.
First, the more open atmosphere makes it a bit less clear as to where you are headed. Everything is still on rails, but the rails themselves are nigh invisible. Rez’s eight-lock reticule is back in Child of Eden, but not knowing where enemies are and not being able to immediately judge how much time you have before targets float out of view, makes it a bit risky to go for “full locks” (a maximum of eight targets locked). This has the odd effect of making you panic a bit more when targets are thrown at you. On the other hand, this does promote replay as there's another element to take into account with trial and error.
Secondly, being poised to go into any direction without any clear guidance also makes the game’s environments open up visually. To the point that while Rez Infinite is a superbly enticing aspect, I’m now kind of wondering if Mizuguchi has Child of Eden VR on the backburner right next to it (though Ubisoft might have something to say about that). It's so open and immersive in its visuals with minimal interface elements that it might even fit PlayStation VR better than Rez Infinite. It definitely seems designed with virtual reality in mind, like Rez was, but it displays a better understanding of what that might mean.
In the end though, I am as happy as a pig in filth. Story-wise, conceptually and even right down to the game design itself, this is a true sequel to Rez. I just can’t get over the fact that I was stupid enough to let a different soundtrack, a motion-control gimmick and platform availability keep me from playing this properly 5 years ago.
On the plus side: even though it’s a PlayStation 3 game, it shows no immediate signs of ageing. Apart from woefully misjudged menu typography, taking it into ‘90s new age territory more than it should have. Get it from the PlayStation Store for cheap (EU) if you were unlucky enough to miss it as well.