Hands-On With Eternity's Child
Posted by Corbie Dillard
Eternity's Child has traveled a long and troubled road to get to where it currently resides as an upcoming Nintendo WiiWare release. Loosely based on a mobile phone game, it actually started development as an Xbox Live Arcade title, but after a was later moved over to Nintendo's DS and Wii systems. Not long after that the DS version was cancelled and the game was officially announced for release on Nintendo's new WiiWare service. The game is probably best known for its unique art style - no surprise considering it's the product of eccentric Anglo-French artist and independent game designer Luc Bernard.
Bernard was kind enough to send us a preview build of the game and after several hours of playing time on the game, one thing is completely clear: Eternity's Child is one of the most unique platformers ever created.
It's difficult to describe the insanely quirky art style the game employs. Imagine if Tim Burton was put in charge of designing and creating the artwork for a brand new Rayman title. The end result would probably end up looking a lot like the visuals in Eternity's child. There's just a very "artsy" look to all of the graphics in the game and the contrast in colors used makes them stand out even more. The animation of the characters and enemies does look unusual (Bernard has stated that he wanted to use hundreds of frames of hand-drawn animation, but lack of funds meant he had to go with the 'rag doll' technique, where each character is constructed of limbs that move independently), but it somehow fits in with the over-the-top theme the game incorporates.
The music in the game is as off-the-wall as the visuals. That's not to say that it's not good, it's just different. Much the way Danny Elfman carefully weaves his offbeat musical scores around Tim Burton's films, Sean Beeson has done the same thing with the tunes in Eternity's Child. The music features beautifully orchestrated songs that are not only catchy, but do a very good job of conveying the tone of the action taking place onscreen. Samples from the soundtrack were put online some time ago, and can be listened to here. The sound effects are very basic and simple, but given how good the soundtrack is, that's probably more of a good thing than anything else.
Eternity's Child doesn't stray too far from the tried-and-tested platforming formula in the way it plays. You take control of Angel, a wingless character, who must run and jump his way through each level gathering up orbs and medallions. You use the Nunchuk to move Angel around and the "Z" button on the Nunchuk to make Angel jump. To help you out, you'll also have a winged guardian angel following you around who can shoot out orbs, which makes the game feel a bit like Super Mario Galaxy, with its 'shooting-star' mechanic. Using the Wii Remote you can move a winged-heart pointer around the screen as a target for these orb shots. These orbs will come in quite handy in taking out various enemies that you'll encounter throughout each level.
To make things even more interesting, a second player can take control of the guardian angel and the two of you can play cooperatively through each level (again, this feels like a nod to Galaxy, and its a welcome one, too). Of course the other player can also sit back and allow the enemies to beat your character senseless, so it might be a good idea to make sure you pick a friend you trust to play this game with.
The control tends to feel very loose at times and makes it tricky to perform some of the more pinpoint platforming jumps found in the game. It's worth noting that this is an early build and Bernard has made it quite clear that the control in the finished product would be tightened up quite a bit. That's not to say that it's terrible, it just feels like it needs a little tweaking in places. We'll reserve judgment until the final version is released, but we can at least say that the game's control system does offer up a lot of potential.
The preview build we were given only features one level, but Bernard has stressed that it’s not wholly reflective of the entire game. The level we played was very much ‘run, jump, shoot’, but we’re told that later stages will have more puzzle aspects.
Another thing that is worth mentioning are the in-game physics - your character has a very realistic weight, and it takes quite some time to get used to that fact. Every jump you make in the game is potentially different because of the way the physics engine works. Hit a platform at the wrong angle and your on-screen avatar can be sent tumbling earthwards. This can often make the game frustrating, but Bernard has stressed that he didn't want to make a game where you could rush through each level without thinking; each jump has to be carefully considered. It's nice to see a developer at least attempt to include this kind of feature. Again, there's every chance this will be tinkered with before the game goes live.
It's nice to see a good old-fashioned 2D platformer coming to the WiiWare service, and the unique art style and beautifully orchestrated musical score in Eternity's Child make it an even more attractive package. If the developers can shore up the game play to the level of quality found in the visuals and soundtrack, Wii owners are going to be in for one heck of a platforming treat when this game hits the WiiWare service. It's also worth noting that the price point of Eternity's Child is a mere 500 Wii points - making it one of the cheapest WiiWare games. Given the sheer amount of blood, sweat and tears that have visibly gone into the art, animation, music and production of this game, this looks like it could be the steal of the century.