One of my most treasured gaming memories is of playing Rez in a darkened room, displayed through a projector and hooked up to the surround-sound system. For a time I was taken away from the real world, and found myself left soaring on sound waves in a zen-like state of concentration. The experience reminded me of why I love games so much, and from that second I was hooked. Rez has been one of my favourites ever since, and I'm still patiently waiting the release of its HD upgrade on PSN. Thankfully the wait's not nearly so hard now that I've got Child of Eden to keep me going.
Though Child of Eden was specifically designed for the Kinect, and that's really how it's meant to be played, I'm talking about the PS3 version here. Oh, and we're not even talking about playing it with the Move controller. No, I played through this gem on the good ol' Dualshock 3. As such, I know I've missed about 90% of what the game is meant to be about. Motion control was a huge part of the push behind its design and marketing, so playing on the PS3 with a pad is a bit like watching a blu-ray through a component cable on a CRT TV. It should be a testament to Eden's quality, then, that it still managed to mesmerise me so completely.
Really, when asking for a spiritual sequel to Rez, you couldn't hope for anything better. The thumping soundtrack and trippy visuals return, with the latter really benefiting from the leap to HD. The plot, for what it's worth, still revolves around shooting viruses to save an AI, this time represented by the beguilingly pretty Lumi. As you fire your way through each stage, visuals and soundtrack blend into a perfect sensual feast, and you'll often find your jaw dropping at some points in a level. Unlike Rez, CoE takes place from a first-person perspective (a hangover from its Kinect origins). As such, if you're playing it on a big enough TV and with a good enough sound system, it can be even more engrossing than its predecessor.
The graphics are an absolute treat throughout; as sky blues bleed into cherry blossom pinks, and colourful explosions fill the screen, every moment feels joyous and vibrant. Thankfully the soundtrack holds its own too, with Tetsuya Mizuguchi showing his usual aptitude for picking incredible tunes to complete the feeling of synesthesia he tries to evoke. Perhaps not as strong as those in Rez, the songs in CoE are still a cut above what you'll find in the majority of gaming soundtracks.
It's difficult to adequately describe Child of Eden without feeling the need to demonstrate it as well; synesthesia styled on-rails shooter doesn't quite seem to do it justice. It's also difficult to describe it without reference to Rez, a trap which I've fallen into constantly while writing this. This wouldn't be a problem if I'd only had a Kinect, and been able to play the game the way it was designed to be played. Played with a pad, it's "merely" an incredible sequel to an incredible game, utterly beautiful, and one of a kind.