Friday, October 21, 2016

Dave Critiques - Child of Eden: Perseverance pays off


Hey Hey folks, Dave here. Just a friendly reminder that this is a critique. I will be discussing Child of Eden for those who have played it. If you’re worried about spoilers, please stop the video and go play the game before returning. For everyone else, let’s continue.

Child of Eden is a game that has been sitting in my PS3 library for years. It’s been on my mind ever since I bought a console capture device back in April, and it’s sad it’s taken me this long to record another PS3 game with it. Well, the stars aligned, and it looks like after a brief play Child of Eden is what I would call the spiritual successor to Rez.

Right away I was struck by, I guess you could call it a sense of synaesthesia. Child of Eden tries its best to fully capture three of the body’s five senses and twist them around in a tumble dryer. The surreal visuals mix with the pulsing soundtrack which is reinforced by the subtle yet ever present vibration of the controller. As each stage continues, all three aspects keep building to a crescendo. Most of the time, that crescendo is a boss fight, but all of the stages play with this simple idea of building to cathartic release in different ways. For example, stage 1 has the boss quite early on, and then the action starts building all over again afterwards. Stage 4 has you fighting the boss at the outset, in the middle, and finally at the end, and stage 5 is sort of a boss rush, where all the previous bosses appear in different forms. Luckily you don’t have to fight all of them, but the variations on their original encounters undoubtedly resulted in some panic.

I’ve strayed a little from my synaesthesia point so let me talk about my first play session with the game. In that session, I played through stage 1 and 2. At the end of stage 2 when I turned off my PS3, I felt like I had just been on a hallucinogenic ride. I felt like I needed to come down. So potent was the game, and I was so focused on playing through these stages that it physically affected me. The reason I want to bring this up is this is one of the pitfalls of writing about videogames. You can watch someone play through game footage, and especially if they're commentating, you can get an idea of what is like to play the game yourself, but it is a poor substitute for what it feels like to be plugged into the machine so to speak. And I was just playing on a standard TV using a controller. Child of Eden supports 3D television and either the Kinect or Move depending on what system you play on. I tell you, I would have definitely appreciated the finesse of motion controls over using the analogue stick as I played through stages 3 and 4.

I had no idea the game would get this hard. I seemed to be alone in that thought too, as most of the help on the internet was along the lines of, “What?! It’s easy!”. It does seem that the actual challenge of Child of Eden is in 100% purges and 5-starring the level, but just making it through was a nightmare for me. And unlike a lot of other games, there are no cheats and no walkthroughs to help me when I get stuck. No, this is a game where I must use my skill to get further and the only way to improve that is to play these levels over and over again until I become intimate with them.

Part of my slow progress was taking an inordinate amount of time to work out the whole regular enemy / purple enemy divergence. Once this was realised, the 3rd stage, ‘Beauty’ was not as daunting and it only took me a couple of tries to best it. Stage 4, ‘Passion’ is where I almost considered giving up. And it wasn’t the stage either, it was the boss. Child of Eden has no checkpoints, so a 12 minute stage has to be played through again if you lose it at the end, and did I lose it at the end, time and time again. The patterns of purple projectiles it pelted me with were insurmountable. Even if I had saved up my euphorias (a screen-clearing bomb that you can hold up to 3 of), it wasn’t enough to stop the onslaught. I was becoming frustrated and disillusioned. Sure, you can farm previous levels for stars to unlock the later stages, but upon acquiring 20 stars to unlock the final stage, I realised I had to complete Passion before I got a chance at it.

So was I going to give up? I told myself that I had more than enough footage to talk about this game. I also told myself I made a commitment, and if I used a play session to keep playing Passion over and over again, I’d eventually have to win. So I bought myself a 3.5mm jack cable extender so I could plug my headphones into my television (as there’s no way to use headphones connected to the PS3), and set my intentions to finally making it through. I beat it the first try that evening. After hours of defeat, I made it through… barely. My heart was pounding, and my adrenaline was soaring as it came down to the wire between the boss and me. I had one health left and had used my euphorias. Could I pump enough damage into it before the projectiles overcame me again? I could!

So I had one final decision to make. Would I play the last stage through normally, or go to ‘no damage mode’ to scope out the lay of the land? To those wondering why I wasn’t playing on ‘no damage mode’, you don’t get scores or unlock stars for using that mode. Nothing counts. You can’t progress. Well, I made the decision to try the final level on normal. My adrenaline was high, and I thought I was in the zone enough to be able to take on whatever came my way. And you know what? I was right. After all the replays of ‘Beauty’ and ‘Passion’, I finished ‘Journey’ the first time. Child of Eden was over. I could now relax as the credits played. It's like a mini epic. I faced what seemed like impossible challenges, I thought about giving up, I decided to keep at it, I persevered, and I am glad I did. It resulted in triumph.

Thanks for watching.

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