Oh, Dear God…I Was Wrong About the Kinect: An Ode to Child of Eden

I don’t expect that if you’re reading this you’ve read anything else I’ve written.  Assuming that, it would be easy to just pretend like I’ve always loved the Kinect.  That, however, would be a damn dirty lie.  Truth is, I really didn’t think the Kinect would go anywhere.  Boy howdy was I wrong.  I love it.  And, there’s one game that makes the Kinect the best innovation in gaming since the analog stick…Click inside to find out more.

My son worked really hard this year.  I mean, really hard.  And, to reward him, we got him what he’s had his eye on — but never asked for — every time we go to Fry’s for the past year: a Kinect.  It was a difficult buy, but I did it.  When we got home, we installed it, and immediately started playing Kinect Adventures.  The game is a B-, but I was instantly impressed with the device’s ability to track movements.  I decided that as long as we own the Kinect, I might as well get a game I like.  I did some research, and decided that Child of Eden would be that purchase.

After making it through only the first (of eight) worlds, I found myself completely pulled in by the game.  It’s difficult to explain.  It’s perhaps easiest (and, yes, superfluous) to simply say: Child of Eden is the most fun I have ever had playing a game.  And, as a gamer since the 80’s, that’s no easy feat to accomplish in 2011.

At its core, Child of Eden is a music game.  In an age when music/rhythm games have completely saturated and devalued the genre, this is a welcome return to what a music game should be.  Music is meant to reach into you emotionally, and help you relax, or get geared up, or cry, or even laugh.  It’s meant to make you an emotional wreck.  Games, while the effort has been great, rarely do this.  I can’t recall the last game I played that made me feel like a really good song does.  That’s what Child of Eden does, only multiplied.

Click to Embiggen

You find yourself as a floating reticule in an absurd organic, yet digitized environment.  Your job is to shoot anything that appears to be an enemy.  You move your right hand to highlight the baddies, and then do a sort of “force push” to execute your fire.  Your left hand can be used to fire in rapid succession — sort of like a machine gun.  Yet, even though I’m using phrases such as “fire,” “machine gun,” and “shoot,” it’s the non-violent nature that helps Child of Eden stand out.

The back-story is that this world is based on a futuristic form of the Internet, one that is innocent, pure, and full of information on the universe.  The problem is it’s been attacked by viruses.  It’s your job to save this far-fetched Internet.  To do this, you must use your reticule to cleanse the Internet of harmful viruses and invaders.  So, while you technically fire at your enemies, you’re actually purifying the world in which you live.

It’s an interesting concept, and one that is very eco-friendly, while dabbling in spiritual ascension.  This content makes it appropriate for all ages, though the game can be difficult.  If you miss too many infections, you start over…from the beginning.  Now, I’m use to this, but I can see how it would become very frustrating for my son.

However, the nature of the game — tasking your with truly interacting with an environment in an unsurpassed auditory and visual manner — makes it a must play for those who are still campaigning about all the harm games can cause.  If you believe a violent game can engorge in a child such a viscous, dangerous nature, then you must also believe that Child of Eden can put our children at peace with their emotions, and actually attain some spiritual sedation.

For instance, the second world has you floating through a sort of digital sea.  Halfway through, you are shown some amazing looking manta rays.  But, they’ve been leeched upon by digital barnacles.  It’s up to you to help clean the binary wildlife.  The end of the level has you trying to eradicate all manner of intrusive parasites from the back of a gigantic humpback whale as it floats through the computerized environment.  The feeling you get when the whale you’ve been carefully preening, and protecting from returning viruses is almost indescribable — though, I’ll try.

It’s like watching a child being born: a wonderful experience, though dirty, messy, and wholly disgusting.  Yet, after taking the effort to clean this amazing creature, all you want to do is stand back and admire it.  And, as the sanitized and free whale floats out of view, you completely forget that this was a game; you earned points, you passed a level, and you’re going to move on to the next round.  It’s almost heartbreaking to realize that you won’t see it again (until, of course, you replay the level), but reassuring to know that at it least this part of the world has been released back into its innocence.

Child of Eden gets everything right.  It’s not a shooter, but rather a cleanser.  It’s not a music game, but rather a music experience.  It’s not just a wag-n-wiggle game, but rather an interfaceless encounter.  There is no controller for you to learn, nor any silly, arbitrary analogs to make you look like a marionette puppet while playing.  Unlike other Kinect games, you don’t have to make any silly poses to control the game.  You move your hand to caress and impose on the game, and it breathes and flexes with you.  While the game is short, it is certainly worth the $35 price that Amazon often reduces it to.

Pros: Absorbing experience. Appropriate for entire family. Actually makes gaming feel like a natural, intentional part of your life.
Cons: Short (quite). Difficult (old school, start from beginning of level save points). Not a $60 game (wait for a sale, or BoGo deal)

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