PixelJunk Eden Hands-On ImpressionsS

We just returned from SCEA's Pre-E3 Judge's Day, an event that gave us hands-on time with highly anticipated titles like Killzone 2, Motorstorm: Pacific Rift, Resistance 2 and LittleBigPlanet. So why am I writing about PixelJunk Eden first? Probably for the same reason that, at the end of the day, while Killzone 2 demo stations were available with no waiting, the wait to get hands on a DualShock to play more PixelJunk Eden was a good 15 minutes. We're not trying to downplay Killzone 2, mind you, as it's a fine game. But Eden? I'm already having withdrawals.

The thing about PixelJunk Eden is that its appealing and addictive qualities might not come across well in screen shots or trailers. Q-Games Dylan Cuthbert showed a trailer for the previous build of Eden at GDC, likening it to "an organic Mario." It's accurate, in some sense, as the game is a platformer at heart, but one that oozes style and originality.

Here's how you play PixelJunk Eden.

The concept is simple. One to three players—we only played in a cooperative trio—will each control their "Grimp", a flea-like creature named with a portmanteau of "grip" and "jump." The goal is simply to build your garden. That will require each player to find a level's Spectras, analogous to a Star or Shine in a Mario game.

Grimps have a few ways of getting around each level, populated with plants, rocks, pollen and enemies. They can jump by double tapping X (or any face button) or launch them selves from a silken tether (tap X once) if launching themselves from a plant—they'll always grip to plants. That tether will keep the Grimp attached to the branch or stem it leaped from, allowing it to rotate around the centerpoint, picking up pollen or using it to fling the Grimp across open space.

The tether also acts as a sort of radar while the Grimp is rotating, with blips indicating where the next Spectra is located, a clever choice that keeps the game's HUD minimal.

Each level begins with a handful of stock plants and flowers that Grimps can climb upon or leap from. As you collect the pollen that floats about, you'll feed unpollinated seeds that will then sprout new growth when you touch them. The level design is more vertical than a traditional 2D platformer, with much of your progress upward. There's a danger to falling, of course, as landing on the ground will drain partially pollinated seeds, slowing your upward mobility.

When playing with a group, however, falling downward off-screen doesn't mean certain doom, as you'll respawn where the rest of your fellow Grimps are after a few seconds, if they're gripping a plant. This is where a good portion of the challenge—and PixelJunk Eden's addictive nature—lies. You'll work as a group to grab more pollen, to catch your teammates if they fall, to build pollen grabbing combos, to stay atop a level, even if the other two plummet downward. You'll take giant leaps of faith, tweaking your fall with the analog stick, delighting in perfectly targeted flying arcs.

Q-Games collaborated with Japanese artist and musician Baiyon to give the game much of its visual and musical style. It's said to feature over 100 minutes of original, electronic music from Baiyon, a soothing pulsing soundtrack that matches perfectly with Eden's zen-like visual atmosphere. The game will most likely see comparison's to previous works like Rez for its gorgeous visuals and throbbing soundtrack, despite the differences in style and energy.

PixelJunk Eden may be hard to describe—and your first few minutes with it may be slightly unsettling—but it's equally hard to put down. Hopefully, Q-Games and SCEA will release a demo soon, so more people will get to experience it for themselves before its release this Summer.