Released: April 2009
Reviewed April 2009 by Keith Murray
PixelJunk Eden (PJE) is a striking collaboration of gaming and music, with Q-Games delivering the former, and the latter provided by Japanese Techno artist, Baiyon. The player controls the grimp, a small, insect type creature who must traverse the various gardens of Eden releasing spores to populate seeds which germinate into plants. These, in turn, allow the grimp to collect spectra, a glowing orb which also expands the main garden hub.
With gravity and inertia playing a major part in proceedings, PJE at first seems like a straightforward excuse to collect items and move on, but the syncmeter at the bottom of the screen constantly drips away, and must be topped up by either collecting the aforementioned spectra, of little pellets dotted around the garden.
Moving in any direction and pressing the jump button allows the grimp to traverse its surroundings but if the player keeps this button pressed down, they can use a web string to catch on to plants . This proves invaluable for reaching ever higher locations and can be used to swing up and around but only from a stationary position. The downside is that the web will only last for so long before braking. This simple play mechanic serves to encourage even non-gamers to pick up and play PJE, with no waggle input or collection of mini-games in sight.
The Ten gardens each contain five different spectras. As more are unlocked, the main hub blossoms, allowing the player to navigate towards the previously out of reach gardens. This means there is a consistent engagement with the player within the surroundings, eliminating passivity from the experience, which is a nice touch. Each garden has a unique feel and in some cases, decides to play with the very notion of gravity, literally turning the player`s world upside down. This is one of the undoubted joys of PJE, seeing what new and interesting layouts await them – an experience to savour and a challenge to conquer.
As mentioned previously, the collaborative efforts of music producer Baiyon help to create a wonderful atmosphere. The minimal techno beats fuse effortlessly with the game, and imbue the title with a real synergy. The fluctuations as the action onscreen builds, the sonic accompaniment that rises to meet it, actually entrancing the player in a blur of sound and vision.
Most companies would be content with leaving such a unique experience as it is, and just basking in the glow of its success. But Q-Games are quite unlike other developers, as the desire to continually update their titles is in their makeup. PJE is no exception and the latest add-on, entitled Encore, adds another five gardens to the mix as well as new game play tweaks and a general refinement to the concept.
PixelJunk Eden is a stunning title which offers a sublime experience for a very reasonable price. That Q-Games keep adding new content in the form of Encore should encourage even the more curious to take a chance on a fine example of an original game idea that works.