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PixelJunk Eden

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PixelJunk Eden is mesmerizing, visually sumptuous, and insanely frustrating. The latter shouldn't come as a surprise: PixelJunk Monsters, the last digital download from Q-Games, was also brutally difficult. But with Eden, it feels like the game's creators piled one too many limitations on players. As a flea-like creature called a Grimp, you move through a stylized, two-dimensional garden. There are two ways to progress from branch to precarious branch. Grimps can make long, leap-of-faith jumps, or swing on a silk thread like a pint-sized Peter Parker. The goal is to collect all five of each garden's "spectra." But these prizes are well out of reach as each session begins. It's the Grimp's job to bust open pods and use the resulting spores to nourish and grow the garden's many seeds. These seeds will sprout into plants and other wisps that the Grimp can cling onto and scale. The viscerally satisfying act of growing and exploring these puzzle-like gardens is more than enough to keep PixelJunk Eden interesting. Time limits and the annoying necessity of playing each garden more than five times to nab all the spectra feel like padding. Still, these road bumps do little to undermine this lovely game. The rhythmic swaying of newly grown plants and the massive clouds of pollen that drift toward the ground below soothe as much as the ticking clock tenses.

Beyond the game: PixelJunk Eden is one of the first PlayStation 3 games to feature trophies—Sony's attempt to duplicate the Xbox 360's achievement system. These rewards for the obsessive-compulsive make any other attempts to string out the game's length moot.

Worth playing for: The game's seventh garden is a total mindfuck. You're caught inside a cross between a terrarium and a Dyson sphere, with gravity that periodically changes direction.


Frustration sets in when: Since when did ambient techno become the official soundtrack for indie games? PixelJunk Eden's music gets a pass, because the thumping tracks are all damn good. But someday very soon, gamers are going to tire of the pact between electro and video games.

Final judgment: The mutant offspring of a cross-pollination between the arcade classic Centipede and Super Mario Bros.