PixelJunk Eden was ahead of its time. The idea of a download-only indie game with arty, abstract 2D graphics and a pulsing techno soundtrack doesn’t sound remotely unusual in 2020, but there really wasn’t much like Eden when it dropped on the PS3 in 2008. Developed by Kyoto’s Q-Games, with music and visuals from local-artist-turned-creative-director Baiyon, Eden was a hypnotic triumph, if a little more challenging than its chill vibe might have led you to expect.
Now we have a sequel, PixelJunk Eden 2, which is coming out today as a Nintendo Switch exclusive. Much of the content and music is repurposed from a 2018 mobile game, Eden Obscura. If it’s new to you, though, Eden 2 will feel like a true sequel — and one that can be friendlier to play than the original.
The basic premise is identical. Every stage is set in a garden, and your goal is to help your tiny character reach a glowing “spectra” somewhere on the map. You do this by growing the plants in the garden. Think of it as a platformer where there aren’t many platforms until you set them down yourself. There are seeds placed throughout the level, and you fill them up by swinging on a thread to collect floating pollen spores nearby. Once a seed is full, you can bounce or swing into it and cause branches to sprout out, which will help you get to more seeds, spores, and, ultimately, the spectra.
If this sounds esoteric, it’s much simpler in practice. The entire game is played with a single analog stick and a jump button, and really all you have to master is the physics of swinging around.
Eden 2 is also a lot more forgiving than its predecessor, which had a brutal time limit and would frequently send you plummeting all the way to the bottom of the garden if you missed a jump. Some of the ways that Eden Obscura adapted its controls to be more forgiving on touchscreens have made their way back to Eden 2’s traditional interface; you can hover in place, for example, and jump multiple times before landing. Eden 2 also brings you back to your jumping-off point if you fall too far, and there are checkpoints around the map that reset the time limit — though, really, I think the game would be better off losing the time limit altogether.
The visuals and music are familiar but no less mesmerizing. Baiyon’s soundtrack has a more organic feel than that of the original, which was very much of its time; its sparse minimal techno could’ve been lifted straight from a mid-2000s Kompakt compilation. (I say that in a good way: Eden was a post-club staple of mine for years.) This is still definitely a game you should be playing with headphones or at loud volume.
Eden 2’s structure is a little odd. It serves you up a selection of levels, each of which you have to finish once to be presented with another set. You can’t replay any of them at will, which is in contrast to the original game’s map screen that let you jump directly into each stage. I like the shift to simpler menus, but I would have preferred to start out with more conventional progression.
Still, PixelJunk Eden 2 is an easy recommendation. It resurrects an indie classic and makes it much less frustrating to play, which I would call an improvement for something that ought to be perfect for zoning out. Eden 2 isn’t quite as novel a prospect as the original was 12 years ago, but it still manages to stand out as uniquely stylish.
PixelJunk Eden 2 is out today for the Nintendo Switch.