Monday, September 8

PixelJunk Eden - Impressions

GameSetWatch is one of those blogs that I really, strongly recommend if you want thoughtful commentary on the breadth and depth of video game culture, such as it is. A little while ago a former somebody by the name of Steve Meretzky laments the loss of creativity in gaming. It's a short piece that affirms my hope, my investment in this pastime.

PixelJunk Eden by Q Games is one of those titles that I have anticipated for quite a while. I didn't pick it up until after I had a chance to play The Last Guy demo so that I could decide which I would buy as my budget is limited. Not limited enough. It's weird, it's wacky and it's definitely original as far as my experience with gaming goes.

The controls are really, really simple. Point in the direction you want your critter (called a Grimp) to jump with the analogue stick and press any face button. One press has the Grimp leap while trailing a thread behind it, once the thread reaches its full length the Grimp can spin around its jump off point twice maybe three times before the thread breaks. Two presses has the Grimp leap forth without the thread. Holding the button down has the Grimp spin. Grimps that just freefall will cling to anything they encounter. Grimps that spin will pass through anything in their way.

The gameplay environment is pop-art inspired, abstract pastel splashes of colour for a background, populated with stylised plant silhouettes and free floating "enemies". Plants grow from seeds, seeds grow when filled with pollen and "activated" by the Grimp by clinging to them. Gameplay consists of collecting pollens, activating seeds, jumping higher and finding the maguffin known as Spectra. Collecting Spectra changes the colours of the game environment, more pronounced as more are collected. The game is 1960's psychedelia in game form. Even the soundtrack is a wacked out, trippy melange.

The game feels fresh to me. I'm nobody significant mind you, but as a dedicated gamer I have directly played at least 300 titles in my lifetime - including Pong in its original form. So few games present this sensation to me these days. It is very welcome when it reveals itself to me, reminding me of that childlike sense of wonder that I cherish. What is particularly delightful about this simple game is that while there are gamey elements it can just be played. In this sense I'm talking more about colouring in the seeds, making them grow and collecting the spectra to change the pastel palette of the viewing space. It's a form of moving meditation that for now, at least, transcends things like scores, skills and trophies.

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