Eden is the third PSN title made by the team at Pixeljunk. Best described as an 'organic platformer', you play as a strange little backpack-wearing creature known as a grimp. As a grimp, your goal is to collect Spectra. After collecting a Spectra, you will then see a new plant grow in your home garden, a fun little playground where you can grimp to your heart’s content (it should be noted now that I played the game with my brother, and we decided grimp is a word like Smurf, so its use as a verb is valid). To reach these spectra you will have to bring plants to life around whatever garden you are currently in, this is done by collecting pollen, which comes from small pseudo-spiky orbs called pollen prowlers. By hitting these prowlers with your grimp or with a thread connected to your grimp (this only works on some prowlers) you can destroy the prowler and release the pollen inside. You can then collect the pollen that slowly floats down by either touching it with your grimp or a thread connected to your grimp. Once collected the pollen will automatically float to the closest seed, which will shine and make a sound once full. This tells you that it's now possible to jump into the seed, and a plant will then grow from it.
Usually there are more than enough prowlers to go around.
Once you’re familiar with these basics, there’s a lot more depth to the gameplay than that, which was something I was pleasantly surprised to find out. First, there are enemies that appear in certain gardens. Basically these enemies amount to pollen prowlers with special abilities which can range from a protective shell that makes them harder to kill, or grimp-seeking missiles that shoot off from the prowler. Second is the ability to combo destroying prowlers to get more pollen than you would get for killing them individually. By killing a few prowlers in a single jump, you can greatly increase the amount of pollen produced, which is almost a necessity for later levels. Third are the levels themselves. Each level is beautifully designed and contains lots of different plants with their own functions. I was amazed at how they were able to take such a simple concept and make 10 completely different levels with each level feeling unique. Whether this is accomplished by a new plant that acts as a grimp firing cannon, or the general design of the level to be played from the top down instead of the usual direction each level brings something new and fun (except for one level where the gravity changes that I hate with the burning of a thousand suns) to the table.
The controls to Eden are just as simple as the rest of the game. There are really only two buttons. All of the face buttons on the controller are used for jumping. When you press the button only once, your grimp will bungee jump from whatever surface he was on, while saving himself with a thread seemingly produced like a spider (this is only done on plants, apparently rocks can’t support threads for some unknown reason). If you press the face button a second time, your grimp will detach from its thread and go flying off in whatever direction that physics dictates. This leads to a slight annoyance because whenever you want to just jump somewhere you will have to double tap the jump button if you don’t want to be tethered to the spot you jumped from. Once you are in the air, you have two options. If you press nothing your grimp will attach (or grimp) itself to the next surface it touches, on the other hand, if you don’t want your grimp to attach to anything then you can press and hold the jump button, which will cause your grimp to tumble through the air unable to touch anything. The only other button is all of the shoulder buttons, which you can use to reel your grimp in when he’s connected to a thread.
Eden is fun and has a lot of complexity in single player, but where the game truly shines is in co-op. There are three grimps to play as, and you can have three people playing at the same time, through the exact same levels as the single player, and with no apparent penalty. This seems like a cheap way to beat the game, but you’ll soon find that the co-ordination involved in getting two or three people to a spectra can easily make multiplayer a greater challenge than single. What makes this game a blast to play in this mode is the ability of the grimps to attach and jump off from one another on a surface, thread, or in mid-air. This ability leads to some incredible acrobatic feats when two people are able to work together perfectly. The game forces the two of you to communicate through the entire level. It is near impossible to pass a garden or get to a Spectra simply by both doing your own thing, and this adds to the fun and social nature of the co-op mode. I strongly suggest to anyone wanting to try this game out that they get a few friends together to take advantage of a truly fantastic co-op opportunity.
The technical presentation of the game is fairly ordinary. The menus work well and I didn't notice any bugs while playing. My only gripe with how the game was presented is that it can often get a little tedious trying to remember, and then get to, the particular garden you want to work on within your home garden. This can get annoying, but this is a gripe I commonly have with platformers that utilize the hub motif so I’m not that mad that it became an issue again.
Visually, the game has a very simplistic but striking art style that is incredibly endearing. Along with the stark color differences and use of the entire rainbow of color, the colors of a garden will actually change each time you collect a spectra, which is a cool little visual reward for your continued efforts. Issues I had with the visuals are that some of the color schemes didn’t have enough contrast and made it slightly difficult to play the game. Also some levels have backgrounds that are entirely too busy and can be distracting. These problems are easily worked around however, and in the end the game is a true treat to look at while playing, even if it isn’t a technically impressive visual treat.
While very pretty, this is an example where lack of contrast may be detrimental
The music of the game borders on greatness but falls just short. I really enjoyed the techno soundtrack, and it seemed to go well with the mood of the game, but I never really found myself thinking about the music after a particular song was done. I certainly enjoyed the songs while they were playing, but I never hummed them after playing the game or had a desire to listen to the music by itself. In essence, it’s good game soundtrack music, but it doesn’t really stand on its own as fantastic music does. All in all, the soundtrack is a great effort and truly enjoyable to hear while playing.
The gameplay of Eden is fantastic. It is so incredibly simple, and yet leads to hours upon hours of challenges as you negotiate your way through the gardens towards your spectra goals. On the negative side, some of the levels can be overly punishing (middle finger to the guy who made the level with the changing gravity) and having to go back into each garden five times to collect all the Spectra within can become tiresome. That said, the co-op within the game is some of the best I have played in years, and should not be missed by any fan of platformers or co-op games in general.
Like many online distributed games, Eden has a lot of value behind it. There are 10 gardens to search through, with five spectra within each garden, so for the math challenged that’s 50 Spectra in total that you’ll have to collect to complete the game fully. Once you have completed a garden and found all five Spectra, you can also go back in to try and improve your score and climb up the online ranking system. That said, there isn’t a lot of incentive to actually obtain all 50 Spectra other than the fun of trying and the ability to play custom soundtracks, and there’s even less incentive to climb the online rankings. For 10 dollars you do get around 15 or so hours, and a fantastic game to play in co-op, so I’m not complaining.
Overall, it’s a very good game that just misses the top tier, and is definitely one of the best online distributed games available. Pixeljunk disappointed me with their first slotcar game, but after playing Monsters and Eden they have made a fan out of me, and I eagerly await their next project.
Second Opinion by Bladeneo: "Unique, Imaginative, downright peculiar; Eden can be described as all of these things but most importantly, it’s incredibly addictive. The gameplay is simple yet surprisingly alluring, and while initially rather straightforward it does take time to master; meanwhile, the level design is intelligent and original, offering more than enough diversity to keep you interested throughout.
While some may claim Eden isn’t too challenging will likely find some contest in the various trophies on offer, ranging from achieving high combos to not wasting a single pollen on a level (which, believe me, seems impossible).
Ultimately Eden offers a fantastic experience that can only fully be enjoyed when played co-operatively and is quite possibly the best game currently available on the PSN."