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Child of Eden: A Kinect game worth attention from the hardcore?

Don't know what a synesthesia shooter is? Read this then...

Unless you've spent the last year or so following the gestation of Ubi's synaesthesia shooter Child of Eden, chances are you may be looking at the stark, fractal images accompanying these words and thinking, "Um, what exactly are Gregg's putting in their pasties these days?" Not only that, but perhaps, "what's exactly is a 'synaesthesia shooter' when it's at home anyway?"

We'll come to the synaesthesia bit in due course, but just in case you're coming to Tetsuya Mizuguchi's new game cold, there's a few things you may like to know before we get stuck into the cosmic space whales stuff - and of course, whether it's shaping up to be any good.

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Firstly, despite the games creator spending most of his waking hours denying it, Child of Eden is a sequel to Mizuguchi's old Dreamcast classic Rez in all but name. Secondly, it's based on a 40-page poem the Q Entertainment boss wrote many moons ago, and crosses into the universe of Genki Rockets, the mysterious J-Pop band Mizuguchi plays in alongside 18-year-old 'Lumi'.

A bit of digging around on the band's website tells us that Lumi is human girl who was born in space on 11 September 2037, and has never been to earth. We should mention that Lumi is a fictional character, and by what we've seen of her in the game, looks a little bit like Bjork on a high heat wash.

EDEN PROJECT
Fittingly for a game that features the most conceptual of pop groups, Child of Eden shares much the same spirit, only within the field of games. Its (vague) plot challenges you to save Project Lumi from being attacked by a virus. Why is this a bad thing? Oh, only because, if finished, Project Lumi would reproduce a human personality in Eden, the artificial intelligence inside which Rez took place (so it is a sequel, Mizuguchi. ADMIT IT. JUST ADMIT IT).

It's sort of like Tron set in Sting's brain around about the six hours after licking psychotropic jungle frogs, or last year's great, extremely druggy Enter The Void movie reimagined as a videogame. But despite the game's grand pretentions, Child of Eden isn't as weird or groundbreaking as you might think.

See, for all its pomp and pulsating J-Pop soundtrack (which admittedly help make our battle against a cosmic whale one of the most exhilarating videogame experiences we've had in ages... By the way - who remembers the days of cats, parrots and all manner of space-faring animals in Konami's Parodius from the early 1990s? We're digressing...), Child of Eden is essentially an 'on rails' shooter in the mould of Sega's old arcade shmup Space Harrier (ask your dad) or that other iconic Yu Suzuki 1980s creation, After Burner (ask your older brother).

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Sure, the game throws themes of ecological destruction at you as you speed through its five levels (or Archives as the game insists on calling them, of which we've played three: Matrix, Evolution and Beauty) but while you're free to shoot at (or cleanse) the viruses engulfing your screen, it's an unseen force that's piloting your journey through them.

Not that it isn't a fun experience; the synesthesia element - crudely speaking, seeing colours as sounds, or vice versa - does at times make you feel like you're trying to destroy an Orb video (ask that guy who keeps trying to strike up conversations with bins in bus stations) from within.

And any shooter that doesn't lazily recreate an obscure World War 2 campaign gets our seal of approval. Where the game comes into its own is via Kinect play, and is perhaps the game owners of said kit who are bored of stroking baby leopards have been waiting for - even if the Kinect controls feel overly sensitive at times right now.

To anyone else, it's a game that - while not the evolution of shooters anyone weary of the genre is hoping for - may be a signpost to something ace that's coming a few more Mizuguchi releases down the line.

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