PixelJunk Eden (PSN) – Review

eden-cover PixelJunk Eden is the third game from Q-Games on the PlayStation Network for the PlayStation 3 and is probably the most abstract game of the three.  The game is based on using your “grimp” character to swing on plant to collect pollen, pollinating seeds that will grow into new plants in order to reach the farthest heights of each “garden”.  The core gameplay, visuals, and soundtrack are excellent, though there are a few questionable elements that could have been removed to make the game much tighter, but overall the game is fun and enjoyable.

Gameplay: A-

In Eden,, you play as a grimp, a creature that can jump and grip onto plants.  You also have the ability to swing around for a short period of time on a length of silk, thus allowing you to swingshot jump to higher locations.  You automatically catch onto any plant you encounter, though if you spin while jumping, you can pass through them, thus allowing you to be selective where you end up.  With these basic tools, you’re ready to explore each of the ten gardens in the game.

The goal in each garden is to collect a number of “spectra” that are located high off the ground, well out of reach of the grimp’s abilities.  However, you can cause new plants to grow at higher locations, thus giving you latching points to make the needed jumps to collect the spectra.  To create these plants you need to locate seeds ready to be pollinated.  Pollen comes from colliding with pollen carries that randomly float about the level; once they “explode” you can jump and swing to cause all the released pollen to move to the nearest seed; once the seed is fully pollinated, you can jump into it and create the new plant.  More pollen can be produced by hitting many pollen carriers in a row without landing on a plant or the ground, allowing seeds to fill up quicker.  Thus, the game becomes a patterns of finding a new seed to pollinate and then to work at gathering pollen as to open the seed, and then find the next seed that gets you closer to the spectra goal.  The core mechanism is very simple and generally easy to get used to, and while the first three or four levels are rather bland in that they simply wash, rinse, and repeat this process on more complex landscapes, new tricks start coming into play by the fifth garden.  This includes pollen carriers that can cut your string, unique landscape features (including a garden with variable gravity) and enemies that will try to knock you off your perch.  Should you fall, you’ll need to work yourself back up to your last location.

eden2

This is where the game has one of its faults.  As you work your way through the garden, a synchronization meter starts ticking down.  If you don’t collect a spetra before its empty, you have to restart that mission in the garden again.  Collecting a spectra refills the meter, as do special crystals about each garden, but the key point here is that this game effectively gives you a time limit, and this unfortunately stifles the nice, relaxing gameplay.  While the time crunch is not a big problem early on, it does start hitting you by the fourth or fifth garden, where there are fewer plants below you should you fall and enemies are out to knock you down, thus you waste your time both falling and climbing back up.  I agree that the meter needs to be there, but it is too aggressive, and probably should be slowed down by half to make the game more relaxing yet with purpose.

The other gameplay problem is that while there are five spectra in each garden, you can only collect one on the first visit, two on the next, and so forth, the game kicking you out of the garden once you’ve collected the required number.  I would have much more appreciated if the game would have left my try to collect as many spectra as I could in one pass, eventually gaining the skills and garden knowledge to get all five in one go.  Basically, the game requires you to run through all gardens five times, extending the length of the game beyond what it really should have been.

eden3

Once you collect a spectra and return to the main “menu”, it itself a garden, a new plant will grow there, and eventually you’ll be able to reach the entrance to a new garden; not all gardens are available at the start and thus this gives a good learning curve to the game.  Unfortunately, getting around the menu garden can also be annoying, moreso than finding spectra in the regular gardens as there’s no signal to tell you the direction to the nearest garden entrance as there is for the spectra.  The menu fits the game’s theme, and I can see requiring the player to reach the garden entrance once via the plants but after that , a quickselect feature was desperately needed.

Your score, both per garden and accumulative are tracked and compared to a global scoreboard.  You also have the ability to record up to ten minutes worth of gameplay and then upload that to YouTube, a nice feature to show off you aerobatic moves.  The game also supposed custom soundtracks (part of a recent upgrade to the PS3) but only after you beat the game.  With two others locally, you can also play co-operatively, each player controlling their own Grimp, and allowing each other to swing farther out or catch another Grimp as they fall. It’s also the first game to support PS3 Trophies out of the box, per se, and thus adds some goals to go back and achieve.

Value/Replayability: B

Ignoring the “forced” revisiting of each garden, the game’s got a pretty good length, more than eight hours to get used to all the mechanics, find the spectra and seeds, and so forth; the force revisiting probably adds another 3 to 4 hours.  The addition of Trophies and high score lists helps to boost the game’s replayability, encouraging you to revisit gardens to find all the seeds or to boost your scores.

Graphics/Audio: A

It’s hard to separate graphics and audio here, as both are outstanding.  The game presents itself with electric trance music, subtle enough to not annoy after hearing it over and over but still catchy.  This works in with trippy backgrounds that change with each spectra you capture, while the foreground of grimp, enemies, and plants remain a glowing, neon color.  The visuals are simple enough, though the monotone plants are appealing to the eye with enough variety and behavior on their own.  The only major problem here is that in some levels the color of the foreground elements is very close to the background colors as to make it difficult to determine where certain enemies lie.  However, this only occurred a few places and by that point, I knew what to look for, thus allowing me to figure in the right amount of caution into each jump.

eden1

Overall: A-

PixelJunk Eden is a fun game – there are a few things that hamper it from being perfect, both being design decisions that could be easily rectified.   However, in considering the game with lack of these, the gameplay is enjoyable and relaxing, aided by simple yet appealing visuals and a good soundtrack.  For a downloadable game, it does pretty much what I expect if not more.  If you have a PlayStation 3, it is definitely a good idea to check this out (there’s a demo if you’re afraid to get the whole thing), but I consider it a well-spent purchase for the full game.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: