Child of Eden, the first meaningful Kinect release of 2011 -- it really took six months? -- is a visual/aural mind-blow that comes closer to delivering on the Wow! possibilities of Microsoft's controller-free camera than anything that's come before it. Anyone who's played a game by the cats at Q Entertainment -- think Rez or either of the block-rocking Lumines games on Sony's PSP -- knows they're the masters of meshing sound, rhythm and visuals into a sensory assault.
Child of Eden's story is a bit on the technical side, so we'll break it down basic: You're trying to purify the digital memories of Lumi, the first child born beyond the confines of Earth, by eradicating viruses. Practically speaking, that means you're riding the equivalent of a digital rainbow roller coaster, shooting at just about anything that moves.
And just about everything does. The visuals are, to put it mildly, jaw-dropping, a trip through electronic oceans and gardens filled with pulsating butterflies, glaring jellyfish and sleek worms, gigantic digital manta rays and phoenixes, swirling around and strafing in for the kill. Using the Kinect control scheme, your right hand controls a targeting reticule; when you lock onto an enemy (up to eight at one crack earns you a score bonus), you flick your wrist forward and unleash an attack. Switch to your left hand, and you deploy a constant stream of pink-hued lasers.
If the Kinect camera were even just a little more precise and intuitive, Child of Eden could have realized all of its revolutionary and genre-defining promise. But switching weapons/hands, a strategic must depending on what type of enemy you're trying to shoot, is where this Child starts to misbehave rather badly.
Even if you're using the hand-clap method to switch weapons, the camera often flies off track, leaving you both totally disoriented and a sitting duck for enemy attacks homing in on you off screen. Given that the precious life orbs that boost your health are few and far between, even a single camera glitch means you're unlikely to have enough health remaining to survive the level's challenging boss battle, and you'll be looping back to the beginning to start over. Digital frustration.
The good news is that you don't have to battle the Kinect camera unless you want to. It's a lot less impressive, but you can use the Xbox controller to virus-blast, too.
As gorgeous as it often is, Child of Eden's a short journey -- the five levels breeze by in the span of a few hours. A little downloadable content -- c'mon, Ubisoft, make it happen -- and a few Kinect camera improvements could raise Eden to a perfect garden of digital delights.