Druggies, take notice; I’ve discovered a quicker, cheaper, and legally acceptable way to get your fix of psychedelic imagery. It’s called PixelJunk Eden, and it’s really, really fun.
Developed by Q-Games of PixelJunk Monsters fame, PixelJunk Eden is a revolutionary platformer for the PlayStation Network. In the game, you’re tasked with growing your “Eden,” your home garden, as large as possible. You see, instead of a menu, your Eden is seamlessly integrated as a playable area. You navigate through your Eden in the same way you would one of the ten other gardens in the game – gripping, swinging and jumping off its plants. All the entrances to the other gardens exist upon the beginning of the game, but you’re unable to reach them as your Eden is initially uninhabited by the game’s luminous and colorful plant life.
To grow plants in your Eden, you must visit the ten other gardens and collect their Spectra. Essentially little bundles of energy and light, each Spectra you gather — there are five per garden — will further grow plants within your Eden, allowing you to access higher and previously unreachable gardens.
You control a “Grimp,” that can, as its name implies, grip, swing and jump. These basic gameplay mechanics are executed through a simple control interface that becomes second nature after about ten or fifteen minutes of play. The Grimp can spin silk and controls much like Spider-Man might in two dimensions (without the whole running part of course).
To navigate each garden, you must first destroy the numerous Pollen Prowlers that roam the area. Upon touching one of these floating allergen-disasters, pollen will poof out and germinate nearby plant seeds. Once a seed is prepared to grow (as indicated by its flashing color), simply jump or swing into it and a plant will flourish. These plants help you reach higher areas, making it possible to arrive at the garden’s various Spectra.
Also, be wary that to acquire more than one Spectra in a specific garden, you’ll be forced to collect that many Spectra within the garden each time. To clarify, if you seek the fifth Spectra in a garden, you have to acquire all five of that stage’s Spectra in a single run-through, whereas if you’re only going for the second Spectra in a garden, you only have to touch two before you achieve success. It’s frustrating to be forced to recollect Spectra you’ve already attained, but then again, this mandatory procedure of events cleverly elongates replay value and does indeed offer an increased challenge each time.
Speaking of challenge, the game would be effortless if you had all day to lazily navigate the gardens – that’s not the case here. A timer is constantly trickling down, and unless you recharge the time gauge with little gems scattered throughout the level, you’ll be in danger of being booted from the stage. Don’t get the wrong idea; there are enemies in the game, they just don’t kill you. Instead, they waste valuable time by knocking you off of a surface or separating you from your silk. It’s particularly infuriating when you’re knocked all the way to the bottom of a garden (often many thousands of times the height of your poor little Grimp). If you’re adept though, these enemies can be entirely evaded, or even destroyed with a neat spin move.
As for the layout of the gardens themselves, they range from great to brilliant. While I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the early environments, the later levels introduce several new gameplay mechanics that ‘inverted’ my thought process so to speak. I won’t spoil them here, but they undoubtedly contribute positively to the game’s basic formula.
Now here’s the part where I talk about the game’s wealth of extra features, and there’s truly a great amount to cover. First off, there’s local cooperative play with up to three players. Although a slightly irksome camera can irritate during cooperative play, it doesn’t really hinder the enjoyment of roaming the game’s vast gardens as a team. You can choose to power through the levels, but just playing around is fun as well. If you’re really skilled, you can actually trapeze between two other Grimps. In fact, there’s even a Trophy for it. That’s right, PixelJunk Eden features Trophy support. In fact, it’s the first game to support Trophies from launch. And if you’re having trouble acquiring a specific Trophy? Well, that’s not a problem, as somebody has surely recorded the process and uploaded it to YouTube. In another impressive first, PixelJunk Eden allows you to capture footage directly from the game and upload it to YouTube, or save it onto your system’s hard drive. In fact, I’ve recorded some footage and placed it below just to show you how painless the process really is.
Finally, if you ever get the urge to get just one more Spectra on the go (and believe me, you will), PixelJunk Eden is yet another Q-Games title that supports Remote Play. Of course, you need to own a PSP to utilize this functionality, but there’s nothing more satisfying than carrying the Garden of Eden in your pocket.
Separate from all these fancy features lies the game’s astounding audiovisual presentation. Now, I’m not talking astounding from a technical perspective, but rather from an artistic outlook. You won’t find green, swaying grass reminiscent of thatgamecompany’s Flower here (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Instead, you’ll be greeted with beautifully abstract renditions of gardens and growth, with appropriate musical rhythms in accompaniment.
To conclude, imagine flOw with more “game” elements. That’s PixelJunk Eden. Although that’s a gross generalization, my point is that PixelJunk Eden can absorb and relax you while still providing wholly organic and addictive gameplay. Not everyone will feel the same way as I do about the game; in fact, PixelJunk Eden may only appeal to a select group of open-minded gamers. If you aren’t one of those people though, you should feel saddened, as you won’t have the privilege to experience the best game released on the PlayStation Network this year.