Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Child of Eden | Last Gen Regen: Forgotten Favourites

Ever since I played Space Channel 5 on the Dreamcast for the very first time I have been a big fan of Tetsuya Mizuguchi, and particularly any games he makes with a musical component to them. Space Channel 5 was funky, fun and fresh and I loved it. Then Mizuguchi released the game that absolutely cemented my faith in him and ensured I would follow his work with great interest.  That game was Rez, the trippy on rails shooter that played a bit like Panzer Dragoon but looked like a bit like Tron and sounded like 90's rave.  It was the unique combination of visuals, sound and vibration that made the game special.  It doesn't matter to me that you can basically finish it in less than an hour, I have replayed it countless times over the years and will continue to do so.  I think of it more of an interactive music album than a game, although that might suggest it's not that fun to play, which would be incorrect. Thanks to several re releases on the last few console generations, you can still get hold of a copy of Rez and find out what makes it so great for yourself, which I really recommend you do.

After this Mizuguchi released Space Channel 5 Part 2 shortly before the unfortunate demise of the Dreamcast, which improved on the first game in every way.  Then he went and founded a new company, Q Games, and made the fantastic PSP launch title Lumines, which melded music and puzzle game play together in a unique way.  He did a similar thing with Meteos on the Nintendo DS, although the game play of this one never really clicked for me - I greatly preferred the chilled out, relaxed pace of Lumines, over the frantic, stressed out feeling to get when playing Meteos.  We then shift forward in time a little bit to E3 of 2010, when Ubisoft unveiled a trailer that got me really excited.  It was a new game by Mizuguchi, and everything about it just screamed Rez, from the visuals, the music used and the brief glimpses of game play.  The name that was revealed at the end was Child of Eden though, probably because Sega held on to the Rez licence and so Miz couldn't use it.  So this was to be a spiritual successor rather than a true sequel then.  Interesting. It was also the first game for the Kinect that looked half way decent, although luckily you could also use a standard controller to play all of the game. I must have watched that trailer half a dozen times after that, and I really grew to love the tune that was used. After that though, all I could do was wait patiently for the game to be released, which is was it 2011. So let's get into why I think it's still worth playing today...

Graphics: 9 out of 10
The visuals of Child of Eden are fairly similar to those of Rez, being a trippy kaleidoscope of colour and light that reacts with your actions and with the music, but there with the exception of one particular stage everything has more of an organic feel to it. There is definitely a lot more going on visually than in the previous game, which can be detrimental to the game play at times because it can be hard to see the purple items that will hurt you.  After a bit of practise you will grown accustomed to the design of each stage though and be able to anticipate where the danger is coming from.  The Xbox 360 runs the game without any problems, and should you be playing Child of Eden via Xbox One backwards compatibility it looks even better thanks to the anti aliasing used by the emulator. It's still a very pretty game even today, though there will be definitely be those who this particular aesthetic won't appeal to.

Sound & Music: 8 out of 10
Like the visual style, the music of Child of Eden definitely won't appeal to everyone and will probably be an acquired taste for a lot of people as well. Rather than the pure trance found it Rez, the Child of Eden soundtrack is a trance / J-Pop fusion, and the music is all by one artist rather than a bunch of different ones. The artist in question is Genki Rockets, a passion project created in part by Tetsuya Mizuguchi himself and featuring the vocal talents of Rachel Rhodes. I was familiar with one of their tunes because it there was an unlockable music video for it in the Wii version of No More Heroes, and the same tune is featured in Child of Eden. Personally I really like their stuff, it's very relaxing and I own both of their albums which I have listened to many times.  I'm listening to "Heavenly Star" while I write this script actually, to help me keep the game in mind. I think I prefer the Rez soundtrack ever so slightly over the Child of Eden soundtrack, though I think both have their merits.

Child of Eden remains an extremely pretty game even today.
Game Mechanics: 7 out of 10
The game play of Child of Eden is incredibly similar to that of Rez, except the perspective has shifted to first person rather than third person due to the addition of the Kinect control method. You control a cross hair either with your hands and the Kinect camera, or with the left analogue stick, and "paint" targets by holding down the fire button as you move the reticule over the enemies.  Upon release you will fire homing lasers at all the enemies you have locked on to. A lot of the enemies won't actually pose any threat to you, though there are those that shoot back purple bullets at you.  With these you need to use the right trigger to shoot a matching purple beam that will eliminate them. There are also purple enemies that will need to be weakened with the right trigger before they can be shot normally with the A button.  From time to time blue orbs will appear that will increase your life meter which is portrayed by a five petalled flower in the bottom right of the screen.  There are also purple orbs that will allow you to fire a screen clearing super beam.

When Child of Eden stays true to its Rez roots I find it to be just as enjoyable as that game, however when it diverges from what came before there are a few issues that hamper it a little bit.  I've already mentioned that the game is a lot busier visually making it hard to see enemy bullets from time to time.  The game also features a star system where you cannot progress to the next level until you've earned a set number of stars. This is probably in reaction to Rez being too short, but it means you will have to replay the same few levels over and over to earn more stars which is rather tiresome.  It's not particularly challenging because you can earn more stars from levels that you've already completed, it's just annoying.  Finally there are the Kinect controls.  When I first got the game I did have a Kinect and I tried using it, but I found it much harder than using a normal controller and gave it up pretty fast.  Not long after I traded the Kinect in while it was still worth something. I expect you can get good with it with practise but I didn't have the patience for that.  It's not a major issue though because wisely Q Games haven't forced us to use Kinect controls.

The "Beauty" stage is quite possible my favourite.
Innovation & Cleverness: 5 out of 10
Rez would score very highly in this category, having pioneered the game play also seen here.  Child of Eden doesn't really bring all that much that's new to the table though.  It does include some very nice level designs which I why it still earns a five here.

Value & Replayability: 6 out of 10
Much like Rez, Child of Eden is a very short experience.  It does take slightly longer to beat due to the annoying star system to unlock the later stages that I mentioned earlier, but not that much longer.  There is also a bunch of unlockables that will extend your time with the game a little bit, such as a higher difficulty, a 6th stage which is a challenge mode, and a bunch of different visual skins.  I do come back and replay Child of Eden every so often, though not as much as Rez.  If you would like to buy a physical copy of the game, the PS3 version is selling for about £5 these days and the Xbox 360 version is £10.  You can claim a free copy of the digital version until December 15th if you subscribe to Xbox Live Gold though.

Overall: 7 out of 10
While Child of Eden doesn't live up to illustrious predecessor, it is still a lot of fun.  The few problems with it hold it back a bit, but it's nothing too bad. I remain hopeful that we will see a true sequel to Rez in the future, especially with the recent release of Rez Infinite and the extra Area X that Q Games made just for it.  In the meantime though, I think I shall replay Child of Eden one more time!  That's the end of this review - however please feel free to stick around for a little while longer if you'd like to enjoy some more of the graphics and music from the game!

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Game Diary: Quite the Achievement!

Hello everyone! I realise there has been a dearth of content for quite a while though.  Hopefully this post will be just the start of a flurry of activity on the site, as I have a lot of things to write about. To begin with I want to let you know what I've been up to over the last month or so, and why both the blog and YouTube channel will benefit. So, somewhere around the end of May I noticed that my Xbox Live Gamerscore was about 12,000 points shy of 100,000, which is currently the highest VIP tier called Overlord. Those who are in the Xbox Rewards program who manage to reach this level get and increase in the amount of reward points they get back on purchases, which gets converted to cash every so often.  I decided that I would make it my goal to try and reach the 100,000 points, and also go back to quite a few games that I had only partially completed in the past.

So far I've managed to finish Far Cry 3 on the 360 as well as Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition and Assassin's Creed: Blag Flag.  These aren't the easiest achievements to get but they aren't too bad.  I'm not trying earn every achievement in every game either, as that's not my idea of fun. I did finish most of the side content in these three games though.  As well as these games there were also a number of Telltale games that I hadn't played yet - Tales from the Borderlands, The Walking Dead Seasons 2 and 3, as well as the Michonne mini series.  These are all an easy 1000 points just for getting to the end, and I had been meaning to get around to them eventually anyway.  In addition to all this I have also signed up for Xbox Game Pass and have been playing quite a few shorter games such as the Sega and Capcom retro collections for games like Streets of Rage, Final Fight and Dungeons & Dragons.  I personally think the Game Pass is excellent because I never would have spent money on games like these when there are so many AAA titles just waiting to be picked up instead, yet I would still like to play them.

Just lately I have moved on to playing Watch Dogs and have gone back to Forza Horizon 3 where I still have a lot left to do.  The same is true for quite a few of the older Forza titles as well - there’s so much content in those games that I’m never finished by the time the next one comes out.  Although I have already played Watch Dogs on the PS4, that was several years ago now and I did enjoy it. Watch Dogs was one of the Games with Gold in June so I haven't had to pay anything for it - in fact I took a bunch of older PS4 games that have since been in either Games with Gold or PS Plus to CeX and got £27 in trade in value, which I used to get Ghost Recon: Wildlands.  I haven't really played much of it yet though.

Looking to the future, I’ll be moving onto trying to polish off Mad Max and Mafia III.  I have tons of other open world games to get to – Assassin's Creed Liberation HD, Unity and Syndicate, Saints Row IV Reelected, Sunset Overdrive, Re:Core – tons!!! Right now I still need to earn just under 5000 Gamerscore to reach 100,000, so I've still got quite a bit of gaming to go.  Of course, as a result of this very Xbox centric time my PS4 and Switch are getting a little bit neglected.  I'll make up for that after I'm done though, especially as I really want to spend more time with Wipeout Omega Collection and dive in to Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age which is out very soon.  Even the 3DS is getting some love right now with the awesome looking Ever Oasis, a full on remake of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga and Metroid: Return of Samus!

Anyway, as I've been playing through these games I've also been capturing quite a bit of footage from them, and I do intend to write reviews and create videos for them as well.  I've been putting it off for a while because I wanted to write this very article that you're reading now, so now I've got this out of the way I shall start knocking out those reviews.  I'm also in the middle of PS2 Tuesdays Season 4 as well, so I do have to spend some of my time playing and reviewing some PS2 classics.  Speaking of which, the next one of those will be The Red Star, a great and overlooked arcade style shooting and fighting hybrid. Once I've got that made and uploaded I shall then try and find a spare hour or so to write the Sleeping Dogs review, and so on with the other games.  You should see quite a bit of productivity if I manage to stick to the plan!  If you have any recommendations of Xbox One or Xbox 360 games that I could play through then be sure to leave a comment. I have recently picked up copies of Bionic Commando (the 3D one), Wet and Kane & Lynch: Dead Men for £1 each - are any of them worth trying? What about the Lost Planet trilogy? I've been thinking of getting those too as they are so cheap.  Any advice would be appreciated!