Thanks to Q-GAMES for the review code
Title: Pixeljunk Eden 2
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 12/10/2020
In a developing world, it’s up to you as a Grimp to help life bloom and expand, by absorbing all the pollen and expanding the many gardens of Eden. A very basic plot for a very simple and fun game!
Right off the bat, Eden 2 continues the Pixeljunk franchise’s long tradition of having varied, abstract art styles to them. From Monsters 2‘s gorgeous textures, Shooter’s vibrant feel and the original Eden’s gorgeous backgrounds, Eden 2 goes fully off the walls and embraces the abstract nature to make the entire game such, blasting the game with tons of color and stunning art design, helping to freshen up and improve the presentation that worked so well the first time around.
This also applies to the music as well, as the game recommends you use headphones for a reason. The sound design is just super soothing and works as a great way to relax you, making this game a perfect cool-down title when playing in handheld mode, and one that uses sound cues very well, with the music enhancing as the stage develops.
At first, Eden 2 may seem a bit confusing, explaining terms like Grimp and spices that to newcomers like myself, may make no darn sense whatsoever. And then it throws you into a stage after a tutorial text, which led to me aimlessly shooting myself all around and not understanding why things were growing or what was going on oh my god help
Indeed, that was my mental reaction during my first 20 minutes with PJE2. I was a bit off guard, kinda confused, and didn’t even know the core gameplay loop, so I did what all people in my case should do, and that was to reread the how to play again, super slowly, and then try it out step-by-step. Sure enough, it clicked like a puzzle, and I’ll help explain it here so that you won’t end up as lost as I was.
In Pixeljunk Eden 2, the main goal is to clear out each batch of gardens by completing them, which is done by filling up the spectra hidden in each stage. You must guide your grimp around the garden to build your way towards it, by using collected pollen to sprout new vines and platforms to latch onto. Thanks to being able to create silk, Grimps can sprout them as a wire and swing from a plant, and upon flicking with the left stick, you can shoot them towards clusters of pollen to break open, barriers or checkpoints, and just use the environment as you continue to build it! You can then press the A button in mid-air to freeze in place, which absorbs pollen around you to pour it into the nearest empty seed. Simply fill these seeds up, and it’ll sprout new platforms and vines to help you continue the stage! Rinse and repeat, and that’s the basic gameplay loop of Eden 2.
This may sound remarkably simple when I explain it as such, and while the controls are very easy to adjust to, Eden 2 really has a lot more depth to these mechanics than I was expecting. For starters, you can’t just ignore empty seeds and shoot yourself up in the air constantly to try and get to a distant area, since the camera will not scroll if you aren’t touching a solid surface. And if you don’t create a solid surface with seeds, you won’t be able to get anywhere, and you’ll just fall off the screen. Luckily, falling just sends you back to the last solid surface, with no true “death” state in this game besides running out of time, which you can refill by touching a checkpoint. (Said checkpoints are where you also start from upon going back into a garden after failing it)
Thus, you have to build your own paths around the garden, which is where the fun comes into play! Absorbing pollen is one thing, but the game also incentivizes going for crazy swings and jump to collect multiple pollen clusters in a row without touching a surface. Doing this will make each subsequent cluster bigger and bigger, leading to crazy fast seed fillings if you get in a good rhythm of it, along with just getting a lot of bonus pollen for the after-stage rewards. It adds an addicting feeling that feels not unlike scoring a major combo in an arcade puzzle game, despite Eden 2 having no visible scoring system in sight. Not to mention there’s lots of different routes to each of these gardens, some of which contain secret paths with more pollen or other things to find. Even without focusing on chaining pollen, it really is just plain fun to go from vine to vine in rapid succession, aiming for the big clusters and absorbing them when they’re broken up. Eventually, you’ll reach the spectra, and upon filling it up like you would a seed, the stage is completed and you’re awarded with spices and other bonuses depending on how much pollen you obtained.
For the most part, that’s really all Eden 2 is about: you’ll eventually unlock or find other Grimp to play as, each with their own traits or abilities, along with differing gardens, including gardens that evolve over time to have completely different modes to them. (Alpha, beta, omega, etc) It’s just a plain simple, yet fun gameplay loop that once it hooks on you, makes for an outstandingly addictive experience, perfect for portable sessions.
Even better, there’s two-player local co-op here, and it works basically the same. A second grimp joins the fray, and helps out with pollen collecting, and this can make stages go by crazy fast if both players are in sync with each other and skilled at pollen chaining.. There’s not much else to it, but it’s a great addition in a game that honestly you wouldn’t think would benefit from such a feature, but it makes for one I’m very glad is here as a great bonus.
Pixeljunk Eden 2 is a very strange game for me, since it was originally one I bounced off of hard, due to the simplicity of the controls and basic help menu not really giving me much of a direction to go off of at first, with me flying around aimlessly for several attempts before I finally cleared a garden. Yet once I got the gameplay loop of absorb, flick, absorb to hook on me, I was enthralled with the nature of this game, and honestly just had a bunch of fun exploring each of the gardens and watching new pathways and areas grow, even just mindlessly exploring and collecting pollen when I long didn’t need to.
It really is a game that, while it may take a tad longer to get into, definitely has a gameplay loop that’ll keep you coming back long enough to want to see the ending, and maybe even 100% it outright with all the unlockables. While I don’t think I’ll have time to do the latter anytime soon, the core gameplay loop definitely makes this one a must-play for anyone interested in weird abstract titles like this. With two player local co-op as a bonus too, that makes Eden 2 even more fun if you have the means to pull it off, but thankfully playing solo doesn’t drain the fun factor from the game at all. Definitely worth looking into if you’re a fan of being the king of swing elsewhere!
I give Pixeljunk Eden 2 an 8 out of 10.