What with all the shooting, driving, and kung fu fighting on PlayStation 3, occasionally it's good to take a deep breath and relax.
PixelJunk Eden is like an interactive lava lamp: you find yourself transfixed on its steadily moving forms as bright colours meld into one another, sprouting branches that curl and entwine like fluorescent calligraphy. Yet as you play, you realise that its levels are not as passive as first thought; that these organic worlds are under your control and that each emerging plant is a path to your goal.
PixelJunk Eden is the third game in the PixelJunk series developed exclusively for PlayStation Network by Q-Games; a studio with "simplicity, familiarity, and originality" at the core of its ethos. However, don't expect it to look like its predecessors, PixelJunk Racers and PixelJunk Monsters; PixelJunk Eden looks and plays like no other videogame.
You control a small creature called a Grimp as it moves from garden to garden in search of precious Spectra. The Grimp will stick to any surface it touches, and then you can send it flying in any direction, using the right stick to aim, and cast out a thread to swing between plants and around the garden.
When you begin each stage, it is sparsely populated with a few plants and brightly coloured orbs floating across the screen. Swinging into these orbs will break them and release tiny particles of pollen, and swinging into the pollen sends it to the closest seed. You can increase the amount of pollen released by capturing orbs in quick succession. When a seed has received enough pollen it will transform into a new plant. The purpose of the game is to move around the level collecting pollen and filling the garden with new plants to swing from so that your Grimp can reach the Spectra that are out of reach.
The floating Grimp and the way that it swings from its thread like a pendulum matches the pace of the floating orbs, the silent explosions of pollen and the emerging fauna. Everything moves at the same slow pace, which allows the soft, yet relenting electronic soundtrack to complement the visuals perfectly, adding beats to the cacophony of colour unfurling on the screen.
Relaxing as it is to play, that's not to say that PixelJunk Eden is easy. It's extremely accessible, as for the most part it uses only one button, and while some Spectra can be discovered quite easily, others are fiendishly tucked away and require not only the right plant to use as a platform, but also a well timed swing to avoid plummeting all the way to the bottom of the garden. There are five Spectra in each of the ten gardens, and collecting all 50 demands many hours of play.
Complicating progress is a meter at the bottom of the screen called the Oscillator, which decreases with time and ejects you from the garden when empty. It can be recharged with crystals, although these are in limited supply. Also impeding your Grimp in the more difficult gardens are enemies that can cut your thread or deplete your Oscillator if touched, and there is no way to destroy them, so all you can do is stay out of their way. If you're struggling and you need help, up to two other players can join in locally to give you a hand.
Completing the package is a unique video mode, which lets you capture your play and upload it to YouTube from the game. And the game also supports Remote Play for PSP, so you can play it in your own garden - or someone else's if you so wish.
Q-Games is building a sterling reputation for producing innovative, quality titles for PlayStation Network, and PixelJunk Eden continues that trend. It's a kaleidoscope of colour and growth that is sumptuous to look at, with a solid platform game beneath the surface. It massages the senses.
Jump into the gardens of Eden: you'll never want to look away.