The disappointment that is Child of Eden

Child of Eden had a lot of hype surrounding it and, fairly or not, was labelled as many as the first major game on the Kinect, something that Microsoft’s motion gaming accessory really needed. I’d hoped that it would be the first quality game that would make it worth buying a Kinect. It wasn’t.

I’ve actually taken a whilst getting around to writing this article, mainly because I wanted to complete the game first. It isn’t long (in fact there’s very little content), but it is challenging, frustrating and perhaps a combination of a lack of fitness and motion gaming experience on my part really isn’t helping. The game features what is effectively a very easy mode where you take no damage and just play to indulge in what is a stunning experience. I’ve had a go and to be honest, I really enjoyed it. Without knowing that a couple of minor slip ups could fail the level, I was more relaxed and soaked up the visuals a lot more. However completing the game with this setting doesn’t allow for progression so if you’re stuck on level, that’s it for you.

I do enjoy a challenge, however it is frustrating when you don’t get to play through a game that you’ve bought because they’ve ramped the difficulty up. Perhaps I’m being a little harsh as Rez was of course designed to be a very difficult game but when you are making a game for the Kinect, especially when there’s going to be a lot of hype and expectations, you really ought to make the the difficulty accessibly whilst ensuring that it can be a challenge. Personally I’d like to see the easy mode, an accessible “Normal” mode (easier than what it is now), a “Hard” mode and the addition of an “Insane” mode. That would satisfy the more hardcore gamers whilst making it more Kinect newbie friendly.

I think what really makes it a no go for me is the relatively long levels. At 15-20 minutes or so, it isn’t that much comparing it to say an action game, however most Kinect games are short for one good reason… it is tiring. As such having to restart the level makes it a little too much to keep trying. Ordinarily I’d quite happily keep trying at a bitch of a level for an hour or so but to ask me to keep sticking my arms out for that long, no chance.

The lack of checkpoints is a possible issue here as getting through 10-15 minutes of gameplay and dying means that you do the whole thing over. Regardless of the “are checkpoints dumbing down games?” argument, Child of Eden (and all Kinect games) need broken up. When playing the sports games, Fruit Ninja, Kinect Joyride etc everything is a little smaller and perhaps more importantly, more varied. Child of Eden’s more mellow nature means that you’re doing the same simple sort of movements over and over. Without major gameplay overhauls to make the player’s gestures more varied, the levels should have been much smaller, or provided checkpoints. Perhaps this isn’t required for the controller versions, but I’m sure it would be quite possible to have provided them just for people using the Kinect sensor.

Further to this, I’ve found that the weapon controlled with my left arm was the most practical to use but unfortunately I’m right handed and don’t find it comfortable at all to use it. Switching between weapons can be quite cumbersome as well. I’ve often found myself suddenly pointing at the sky or ground when switching. It also doesn’t allow for a quick stretch mid game if you see a window of a couple of seconds. Similar issues can occur when trying to pan around. The game may be on rails, but on occasion you are expected to look around and this process can be very jarring. If it did this automatically or kept everything in front of you the game would be a lot smoother. The lack of information doesn’t really help. Often you are looking around and its only when the enemy has fired at you that you know which way to look and a quick fight with the camera and hopefully you’ll be able to defend yourself in time…

It isn’t all bad. The game has some stunning visuals and the whole mood of the game is very immersive. At times I have been relaxed and started really enjoying playing the game, however either something catches me out or all too commonly. The core game is great, however the combination of fairly long levels, reasonably difficult and being a Kinect game make it all too frustrating. I guess that I did get off to a very negative start with the game with an incredibly annoying and flawed tutorial system. Maybe that has made me more critical than I ought to be and now I’m subconsciously looking for reasons to dislike it but any game that punishes you rather heavily isn’t going to get replayed if you weren’t thoroughly enjoying it in the first place.

Perhaps with more practice I’ll be a little better at the game and become more comfortable with the gestures, building up my endurance but to be frank that isn’t what I want from booting up my Xbox. I want to enjoy myself and Child of Eden is yet another Kinect title that fails to deliver. Beautiful, yes, but as a game it isn’t all too often rather frustrating and contains real flaws in the use of the Kinect. Maybe it works quite well on a controller but it really isn’t the motion gaming experience that I’d hoped. Fruit Ninja is still the best Kinect game that I’ve played, which to be honest isn’t particularly inspiring news for a £100 gadget but I’ve a copy of Rise of Nightmares yet to play and Gunstringer to come. Maybe one of those will be pretty good, or at least the first full-price Kinect game that isn’t rather shit.


Completion: ~60%
Source: Xbox 360 Kinect

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