The game is split across the five layers of Lumi's consciousness, or 'archives' as they're known. These move through several themes, each punctuated with its own memorable set-pieces and boss fights, if you can call them that. Where 'Beauty' is constructed from rivers, butterflies and floral enemies, 'Passion' offers a contrast of gears and intricate mechanisms, with trains, rockets and a network of satellites as targets.
Music knits each stage together, complimenting the difficulty of each section, giving it peaks and troughs. It's hard to imagine anything but the soothing electronic beats of Genki Rockets supplying the music for the game. In a very meta-sense, it's a perfect fit for the narrative, too. Lumi is the very face of Genki Rockets - the hybrid band in which Mizuguchi has some involvement - and as each level builds towards its thunderous crescendo, images of the young star-child intertwine with the abstract geometry. It's clear at these points you're doing a good job. The digital disease is being successfully vanquished.
Child of Eden might be a fantastical journey through an otherworldly ether, beautiful and hypnotic, but it's still a game. Your performance is graded at the end of each level, with up to three stars reflecting your score.
Completing one archive does not necessarily unlock the next. You'll need to amass a set number of stars to open the next level. While often it's nice to be gently pushed into replaying a level with the incentive of high scores and rewards, it's never nice to be forced. In Child of Eden, there's no progression without repetition. I completed Evolution (the shortest archive, as far as I can tell), no less than five times in order to amass enough stars to finish the game.
A lack of checkpoints also frustrated me somewhat. Dying at the very end of a 15 minute level – which happens a fair amount until you're familiar with the exact pattern of harder sections – boots you right back to the menu screen, where you're simply forced to try the whole thing again. In some ways, I appreciated the strictness of it all, the slightly retro nature of the game. At the same time, I just resented having to repeat large chunks over and over again.
It's probably a good thing though, thinking about it. I completed the game in a paltry three hours, which would have been less if I hadn't had to replay so much. On top of this, though, there is a sixth archive to unlock, which has levels within itself, presenting a more score-focused way to play. There are other reasons to keep playing, too. Completing an archive offers one of four organic lifeforms to furnish Lumi's Garden - the interactive menu that precedes the game. Filling the garden with each and every one of these collectibles takes some time - but it's worth it. As I've spoken about before, Lumi's garden is a fascinating little time-waster in it's own right.
Mizuguchi believes that games can change the world, and that the medium is to become more and more of a sensory experience. Child of Eden is a great example of this vision. It combines visuals and audio in a way that only Rez has managed to do before it. It's a welcome palette cleanser in a particularly heavy year of violent shooters.
Close your eyes after playing, and a carnival of neon sea-creatures and fluorescent shapes will pulsate under your eye-lids. Child of Eden will linger in your conscious long after playing. While it's a fleeting and - on rare occasions - frustrating experience, it'll leave its mark on 2011 in just the same way.