Rez was an awesome game. And not in a tired, "dude, so awesome" way, but in the sense that it was actually kind of impressive. At its core, it was nothing but a variation on Panzer Dragoon, but its marriage of abstract-yet-computer-influenced visuals and thumping techno was just...new. It was also a game that no other publisher at the time except Sega would even bother with -- certainly not today. Given that, it was as much of a hallmark as a harbinger, arriving at a time when "music games" were quickly becoming nothing but the button-slamming plastic instrument goofs we now know them as today.
Child of Eden, its successor, is also awesome. Its story is a little less vague, too: You're tasked with entering the Internet, now called "Eden," to recover the memories and essentially the spirit of Lumi, a girl who was the first human born in space, and sort of a poster child for the furthering of humanity. Lumi hasn't been alive for a while, but exists peacefully (and virtually) in Eden until it's infiltrated by viruses intent on smothering what's left of her. So it's your job to dive into the "archives" of Lumi that exist in Eden to purify the enemy viruses and rescue her.
You're represented by nothing but a reticule, a simplification from Rez's flying avatar, but your controls are just about the same as ever: hold the fire button to lock on to up to eight enemies, and let go to destroy them. But as you press the fire buttons, even without something locked on, you're creating sound that adds to the background music. Just don't think it will turn you into a DJ.
As much as Child of Eden is about music and visuals coming together, it's nothing without that music, and fortunately, it's great. Rez had those aforementioned thumping stages that were meant to get your blood pumping, but even at its darkest moments, Child of Eden's music is refreshingly upbeat, at times borderline inspirational, from beginning to end.
One thing about Rez that I could never perfect was the feeling that I was actually contributing to the underlying music as the sound effects from my shots would blip and clap and so on. While it's still far from ideal in Child of Eden, I did feel like my actions were more in sync with the surrounding sound, which may be a nice side effect of designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi using the music from his own project, Genki Rockets, to serve as Child of Eden's soundtrack, rather than remixing someone else's songs.
If I'm referring to Rez a lot, it's only natural -- Child of Eden really isn't all that different from its decade-old predecessor, and what's troubling is that I feel like it's missing something. It's still a nice experience; almost emotional, but it's not a very smooth one. Upon completing stages, you're awarded stars that add to a game-wide total. These stars are not just indicators of how well you did (collecting all the items, successfully timing full lock-on hits), but are also used to unlock the other stages. Out of five stages, four of them I couldn't go right ahead to because I didn't have enough stars. And that really bugged me.
To some, that's just a regular part of video games now; nothing worth bristling at anymore. But it's different here. Considering what Child of Eden presents itself as -- an interpretative, synaesthesic adventure that I'm sure is better experienced all at once -- it's pretty antithetical for it to keep you on a short leash. It's not so likely that, like me, you're going to score three or more stars in a stage in your first playthrough, and so the game will yank you back out and essentially say you're not ready for what's next. But by all means, you ought to be.
Besides that, Child of Eden is surprisingly set firmly in Rez's gameplay structure: you get the lengthy stages with multiple sections (no, lengthy isn't bad), the not-all-that-stressful enemy situations, and even the boss gauntlet in the final stage. The game comes off like a child itself, and the only obvious wrinkle is the secondary "rapid-fire" laser weapon that you'll need to destroy certain enemies and projectiles that fly at you. The rest is Rez 101.
But I have to reiterate: Child of Eden is awesome. It's impossible to not be taken aback by the brilliant orchestration of the stages, their intricate details, and their climactic boss fights, including the borderline inspirational ending sequence. And if you have even a passing fancy for electronica, you'd be nuts not to try this. It's a good game that probably stands out more in today's market than Rez did in 2002, and comes recommended regardless of whether you played Rez or not.
As for me, I've played Rez multiple times and was along for the ride just like everyone else, and while Child of Eden may be awesome, it doesn't have the same impact. But with the right timing, who knows; maybe the ride will be twice as long.
When Child of Eden debuted last year, it was viewed as a "Kinect game," and it's been joined at the hip with the motion sensor ever since (until the PS3 version comes out in the Fall, anyway). I've only played Child of Eden with Kinect in its final version, so I can't speak to any concerns other people have had with earlier preview builds or the like. I can say, though, that I didn't have any significant problems playing the game with just my hands -- sweeping my hand around to lock-on to enemies didn't feel so laggy once I tweaked the sensitivity option, though my reaction time and my arms suffered as the intensity grew in later stages. It's still not the same as playing through with a controller first, which I strongly recommend. But I imagine that the people who will enjoy Child of Eden with Kinect the most will be owners of a giant TV or a projector.