Downloadable Drug

March 2nd, 2009

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Pixel Junk Eden‘s most poignant quality is the way it slips you into a mental slumber with its hypnotic chimes, weightless gameplay and pulsating visual charisma. It’s perhaps the best sort of game to play before you go to bed, simply because its natural ambiance, as well as the player created ambiance send your body into peaceful hibernation. It’s an incredible trance like state, similar to the way Ikaruga‘s concentration overload sends your mind through channels of mental breakdown. The main difference being that the come down from Ikaruga almost shatters your brain, as you recover back into a less intensive, less destructive state of mind. One that isn’t demanding twitch from the streams of pattern identification.

Eden is unbound from strain, and hence you relapse slower. During play it gently burrows into your self awareness, before manifesting and shutting off everything bar the plugs that allow your brain remains to become encapsulated with the on screen tight rope act performed by those strange bits of characterized shape. The gameplay demands are minimal, with most of your little effort concentrated on staying afloat rather than any objective goals, like completing the level. The lack of interference allows the visual and aural scapes to stimulate and massage you into this zen state.

The higher you climb, the deeper the hooks sink into you. The superbly instrumental sounds bend back and forth to the on-screen acrobatics of these tiny characters. Music becomes the element in which you flow, you orchestrate on screen with synchronocity to the tunes you are influencing. The visual platform becomes just that; a platform to throw yourself at, a tool to proceed with. It’s an incredible unity of presentation with gameplay that all interweaves with such fidelity. Detached, as something so far from real, so much more than cases with price tags on. Pixel Junk Eden deserves not to sit in the space of “real” games on the shelf of game stores but rather, allow itself to be found, discovered, in a place without physicality.

  • I love Pixeljunk Eden, but having played through most of it, I can’t imagine relaxing to it before bed. Or rather, I should say that the first 3-4 levels are suitably relaxing, but it gets quite difficult and demanding from stage 7, in particular. Also, just freestyling through the level without regards to collecting all the Spectra is definitely soothing. But I think PJE can be deceptively tough, stressful, and very much a “gamer’s game.”

  • I see that Korey, I’m starting to find that myself. My brother and I are still completing the first couple of levels. I think that playing co-operatively may also have an affect on this.

  • I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the cooperative experience. I’ve only been able to play it solo so far.

  • I agree almost entirely with this post on how the game manages to relax you while you play. It’s simplicity certainly helps achieve this, though as outlined by Korey it can be deceptively tough as well. The game has frustrated me more than once, though upon reflection I realise that each time this has happened it has been my fault. What am I referring to? When you jump into a direction and then miss what you were aiming for then begin falling aimlessly towards the bottom. Sometimes you’re lucky and can recover on a nearby plant, but a lot of the times you will go all the way to the bottom and I find that frustrating to be honest. I do wonder though if the frustration comes from it simply being annoying, or, because I was so relaxed as I played that the sudden fall ‘woke me up’ from the experience I was having?

  • The falling has bothered me on numerous occassions. I guess playing in pairs alleviates this somewhat as you can decide to let the other player suicide, and they’ll respawn in your position. To begin with my brother would dive to the ground in saviour, but we’ve eventually learnt to just take the hit, it’s no big deal. Generally speaking though, falling is definetly a detriment to the game, that is inherently part of the main design.

    You both mention that Eden can be deceiptively tough and I totally agree with you there. Eden often seems to provide you with little enough foilage at just the right distance away from you to trick you into thinking you can make a safe jump, when really the odds are stacked against you. It gives you hope and then draws it away from you on your own whim. I think that’s where the deception comes from. The swaying of each “platform” is alluring too and works in a similiar way. Don’t you guys think?

  • If anything the swaying of certain plants just makes me want to try and take advantage of it by getting combos with the Prowlers, only to prove annoying once I realise that I’ve missed a few seemingly easy ones and didn’t reach the combo I thought I was going to. Otherwise, they don’t seem to really affect my jumping. I agree though that a lot of the foliage is placed at just the right distance to tempt you into trying to make a particular jump. If it is visible, it’s reachable right?

    Wrong!

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