PixelJunk Eden - hands-on

If you've seen PixelJunk Eden, there's a 90% chance that your first reaction was, "What the CRAP is going on?" Fair enough. But we're here to tell you the answer: "Something you'll love, probably a lot more than you think you will." Like LocoRoco or the PSP should-be-classic Patapon, this game combines a captivating graphical style with atmospheric music (pulsating club sounds this time, not a choir of children) and simple-but-gripping gameplay.

Basically, you're building a garden. But the way you do this is not with a shovel and watering can. No, in this minimalist psychadelatopia, you take control of a tiny critter called a Little Grip - imagine a candy-colored cross between chinchilla and monkey, and you're there - and drive him around. Grips can do two things: jump in whatever direction you're pointing, and create a rope-like tether, which they anchor where they're standing and then swing from like Spider-man. Thanks to some actual physics, swooping around on tethers can also help launch you on those really long jumps. They do break though, so you'll have to let go or reel it in before you put too much stress on the line. Fatty.

The point? You're gathering materials for your garden by visiting other gardens. Essentially, little circular targets are placed all over the level and you want to touch them. Most are actually bits of color/pollen/whatever that you'll use to enhance your garden, and some will actually trigger the growth of new "plants" you can then jump on and swing from, making it easier for you to reach even more stuff.

That's it in a nutshell. And while it seems simple (because it is), this is one of those games in which the overall experience is much greater than its separate parts. You can also play cooperatively with up to three players, which is a real kick even if it is offline only.

May 16, 2008