How do you describe a game, that almost defies conventional description? Not an easy one for even the most hard-bitten of games previewers but you know what? No one said this was going to be easy.
We speak of course of Child of Eden, the newest title from Japanese games auteur Tetsuya Mizuguchi creator of Lumines and Rez, two of the most intriguing and innovative rhythm-action games to appear in the last decade. Although Mizuguchi has worked on a host of other titles including the likes of Sega Rally 2 and Ninety-Nine Nights, his reputation as the crown prince of psychedelic rhythm-action will always precede him.
Child of Eden Is actually something of a spiritual successor to Rez and the plot sees you transported inside the data centre of Project Lumi a plan to develop a human personality for Eden, the artificial intelligence from Mizuguchi's original Rez. But Project Lumi is under attack and it's your task to sweep five archives of data including Evolution, Matrix and Beauty and eliminate the deadly virus infecting its core.
Child of Eden's core concept and gameplay mechanic is based on synesthesia, a ancient Greek idea of multi-sensory semi-orgasmic stimulation. While that might be a bit much to expect for your entry fee, Child of Eden's rhythm-shooting action presents a heady and bewildering cocktail of sound, light and vision, which blends into a sublime psychedelic shooter.
While perfectly playable on a standard controller, Child of Eden is really built to take advantage of motion control and it has been touted as one of the first true hardcore games for Kinect.
More on that later, but how it works in practice is that your right hand controls a lock-on reticule which you use to paint targets and then flick forward to fire a homing laser, with bonuses awarded for multiple octa-locks and precise beat matched timing. Your left hand controls the tracer laser, the faster but weaker beam necessary to take down purple viruses and their incoming attacks. Raise both hands above your head and you'll unleash a wave of Euphoria (no kidding), a smart bomb-like blast which nukes enemies across the screen.
It's a deceptively simple idea, but when you're swooping through one of Child of Eden's mind-boggling kaleidoscopic levels with a throbbing trance soundtrack pulsing in your ears, waves of bizarre luminous enemies exploding around you and the environment twirling in psychedelic splendour, it quickly becomes apparent that this is a gameplay experience not quite like any other.
Each of the five archives you explore has a different theme and and it's here words do begin to fail, when trying to describe just how truly stunning the visuals are. Imagine the digital love child of Lewis Carroll and MC Escher, being parsed through a deranged fractal generator and then set to detonate and you're probably heading in the right direction.
At times it's quite unearthly and almost eerily beautiful as neon butterflies weave in and out of exotic psychotropic landscapes and your carefully timed shots, trigger another wave of syncopated drum fills, synth stabs and psychotropic explosions. We had to check several times that we weren't in fact on drugs.
The Mizuguchi-produced Genki Rockets feature on much of the soundtrack, which is a pulsing mix of trance and electronica which provides the perfect accompaniment to the frantic on-screen shooting action. The combination of great tunes and gob-smacking visuals brought back memories of coming back from an all-nighter and spanking Wipeout into the early dawn. Good times.