It’s always a little weird playing an old game for the first time, not that I like to call it Project Eden old because it just came out on PlayStation 2, and how can that be old? What – that was 20 years ago? Well, that’s Friday in the bin. But what I mean is seeing Project Eden for the first time now is a bit like watching a classic movie. It has an air of historical significance, even if it’s a bit clunky.
The premise is fascinating. Project Eden is a game from Tomb Raider creator Core Design in which you take control of a group of four law enforcement agencies investigating the disappearance of various people in a futuristic city. It has the typical feeling of the early 2000s: an undefined future that is clean, but also anything but pleasant. There are some wild predictions like synthetic meat companies. Imagine!
It has some nice ideas. In the beginning you can interview people, and I wish there were more of them. It’s not an award-winning dialogue, but it’s interesting and disrupts the puzzle-solving that is actually at the heart of this game. Team based shooter looks aside.
The puzzles are addicting and a bit frustrating at the same time, presumably because Project Eden doesn’t quite fire on all cylinders in its typical double-A style. The key is using your team of characters together and solving different pieces of puzzles one at a time. But asking them to do even simple things, like following you, is cumbersome. Too often you wander to a destination and find that someone has been holding back for no apparent reason.
Each member of the team, of course, has their own specific skills. There’s Carter, the squad leader whose main skill is getting people to actually talk to him – what a charmer! Oh, and he can open high security doors because he’s the boss. More interesting is Andre, who repairs any broken equipment you encounter, including awkward door switches. But repairing it requires a well-timed keystroke, which can make it fiddly.
Then there is Amber, who is a cyborg, which means that she can walk through poisonous gas with no problem. This turns out to be pretty useful as she often comes across a conveniently placed vent to get rid of all the gas so everyone else can ride. Then there is Minoko, who can hack into computer terminals to unlock doors and display footage from surveillance cameras to help you know what to do next.
This is where Project Eden is delightful and such a change from a lot of the games you’ll see these days and with that lovely core design feel that worked so well for Tomb Raider back then. I was strangely pleased when Carter groaned when I rammed him into a wall, just like Lara Croft when you rammed her into things. It’s something my mother used to pervertly enjoy years ago because she didn’t like Lara Croft. Plus, the characters are eager to climb literally any surface possible, a bit like lemmings, because yes, this is solid double-A.
It’s not that kind of game anymore, especially on the console. The puzzles are a little complicated and require a little too much patience. But they are absolutely the best part of the game because the fight is weak and mostly makes me wish I didn’t have to worry about it.
Wrap up a game of detective work, complicated puzzles, and a somewhat clumsy team and guess what? I’m totally for it. If only I hadn’t been distracted by Grand Theft Auto 3 and Final Fantasy X in 2001, I could have got some friends to play Project Eden locally and cooperatively. And I have an insidious feeling that we would have idolized any second of it, at least until we got stuck on one particularly tricky puzzle – the goat puzzle in Broken Sword has none of what this game can throw at you!
All of that makes me want another game like this one. How about?
Core Design still has a mini-site that hosts Project Eden’s visual goodies, and even what it looks like, a demo. I am not sure if it works.