There are two discernible differences between Child of Eden on PS3 and its 360 counterpart from four months earlier: Move support and 3D visuals. One is a subtle change that alters the control scheme slightly whilst giving arm waggling the addition of some tactile feedback; the other is the perfect compliment to the whimsical, ethereal experience that the game offers. Flying through the abstract space-internet of the future is a far more sensory experience in three dimensions.
Tetsuya Miziguchi's audio-visual spectacular is an ambassador for the age-old 'games as art' debate; an experience that panders to the highbrow with an interactive kaleidoscope of colour, shape and sound. And yet at its core, it's little more than a (very well disguised) on-rails shooter.
While the 360 version placed an emphasis on the Child of Eden 'experience', which was made possible without a controller thanks to Kinect, the PlayStation 3 version prefers to put something more tangible in your hand.
As you float through the abstract cosmos of Eden - a vast cyberspace you've been sent to purge a virus from, thus saving the first space-born human, Lumi, who has had her consciousness digitally stored there - your Move controller becomes a futuristic laser weapon. Move the reticule over enemies floating through the environment, and they'll automatically be locked onto; pressing the Trigger button will then send a stream of projectiles their way. Without locking onto to an enemy, you can press the Trigger button to release a stream of purple machine-gun bullets - the tracer, it's called. At its core, the game is about knowing which method of attack to use and when.
Whilst you might feel like one, a five-point health bar in the corner of the screen emphasises the fact that you are not an omnipotent floating space wizard; you will get shot at. You'll quickly develop an eye for the colour purple, which denotes enemy projectiles hurtling towards the camera. Killing the source of these malicious missiles is usually a good way to go about surviving.
If you buy into the games narrative, you're not actually 'killing' enemies at all; you're purifying Eden of digital anomalies; the parasites of Lumi's conscious. With each enemy you 'delete', a melodic cry rings through Eden. Different enemies produce different sounds; beeps and bops, plips and plops. Even the act of locking onto an enemy comes with its own musical motif, each adding to the soundtrack as a whole. Contributing to the sound and rhythm with a few majestic manoeuvres of your limbs is more satisfying than you might imagine.
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 its 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 this 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 earn the next level. While often it's nice to be gently pushed into replaying a stage 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 fifteen 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 - 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 of the game. 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.
Miziguchi believes that games can change 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 before. With 3D support on the PlayStation 3, this is amplified somewhat, resulting in a trippy, otherworldly experience that simply wouldn't be possible in other games.
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.