Games, to me, are like movies: I rarely go with the mainstream. Genres tire me out. I get excited about the element of surprise, of the new and unusual. It's why I'm initially drawn to new gaming hardware: the shock of the new promises surprises, the unknown. When Microsoft's Kinect debuted last fall, I wondered how Xbox 360 games might change because of its hands-free design.
Except for a few games (Dance Central, mainly), the answer is not much at all. Post-E3, it looks like more Xbox games will tack on Kinect-ready features as opposed to designing new types of games, drifting further away from originality. That's why I'm appreciative of Child of Eden.
Ubisoft's new and extremely trippy game isn't long, and if you're a gamer with a sense of history, it's not necessarily new: Tetsuya Mizuguchi created a previous game, Rez, that achieved cult status for its electro-rave strobing design. Like Rez, Child of Eden is a shooter that sends you through pulsing, glowing tunnels and worlds. Odd glowing creatures, crystalline structures, and a soundtrack that changes based on what you're attacking create an experience that's akin to a Tron-inspired planetarium. A storyline, about the extinction of life on Earth and the preservation of a space-born woman's soul in a futuristic Internet archive, is weirdly captivating but unnecessary. Instead, just dive in and take a swim in the electronic ocean. The game's simple controls--aim and shoot--can work with either the standard Xbox controller or the Kinect. Using motion means that each arm controls a different "gun" for aiming. It's simple, and refreshingly free of awkward moves.
Child of Eden is also coming out for the PlayStation 3 later this year, so by no means do I want to suggest this is a unique Kinect title. What makes the game a stand out is how different it is compared to other Kinect experiences: futuristic, and unlike any Wii game. $50 is a lot to invest in what amounts in some ways to a short-lived video game laser light show, but if you admire art and inventiveness, you won't mind the admission fee, or the simple fun the game brings. The Kinect needs more games like Child of Eden...but it's unlikely to get many.