Some of the best games on the PlayStation 3 have never seen a Blu-ray disc, all thanks to the folks at Q-Games. The first two games in their PixelJunk series - Racers and Monsters - proved that you didn't need photo realistic graphics to make video games that truly belong to the next generation. Now they've released PixelJunk Eden, a game about jumping, grabbing, and pollinating. Looking at the graphics alone you'd have absolutely no clue what was going on. Watching a video sheds a little light, but doesn't quite make things clear. No, to experience PixelJunk Eden you need to get your hands on it, just like the reviewers did in our latest Frankenreview.
What's confusing is the game's wild and carefree disdain for consistency, and the way it throws its head back and laughs in the face of the laws of physics. Many jumps are hard to judge, because the game seems to decide whether your character will make them based on how it's feeling at precisely that moment in time. A plant that looks impossibly far away might be easily reachable, and vice versa. So you're left confused about what your character's capable of, which routes through the level are feasible and why these two aspects appear to change on a moment-to-moment basis.
Remote play on PSP makes a welcome appearance, and works very well, in no small part due to the simplicity of the controls and visuals. Then there is the 'revolutionary' trophy addition which will certainly sell a few more copies of the game for those hoping to 'level up' their PSN accounts. Thankfully, adding more value than just having to complete each level, the trophies vary between a completist's dream, opening all of the seeds in each level to a rather crazy trapeze based three player achievement.
Eden's heart lies as much in its audiovisual detail as it does in any structural or gameplay elements. Strikingly colorful and abstract, the mesmerizing backdrops complement the sparse game perfectly. Even when the levels start flipping gravity and tweaking the relationship between the enemies and environments, it's easy to appreciate the visuals acting as the motivating force behind the action. The music isn't quite as interesting and doesn't evolve much throughout the journey, but the beats are still an essential part of the experience (the louder, the better).
PixelJunk Racer was cool and PixelJunk Monsters sucked away a good few months, but PixelJunk Eden is straight-up digital crack. The ever-increasing difficulty challenges without ever becoming overly frustrating, probably because the sights and sounds are so damn calming and the controls, so charmingly simple and intuitive. If it sounds too abstract, do yourself a favour try the demo on PSN. PixelJunk Eden is a wholly unique gaming experience, one which is difficult to accurately describe. Like the best things in life, it must be sampled to be truly understood.
I spent the better part of Tuesday playing PixelJunk Eden, leading to me having to stay up until 6AM to finish Eternity's Child for my review. 'Nuff said.