The half-hour long uninterrupted PixelJunk lifelike preview shown to E3 attendees was prefaced with virtually no introduction or explanation, save for Q-Games founder Dylan Cuthbert explaining to the crowd that the game which was about to be demonstrated is not a game, so that we logically shouldn't expect any gameplay.
He also added -- before handing the reins to PixelJunk Eden composer Baiyon -- that the studio's unique music generator/visualizer could only be understood by seeing it in action. However, if there was any elucidation to be gained by the bewildering, psychedelic 30 minutes which followed, it sailed far, far over my head.
Cuthbert's observation was on the level -- though it's a tough game to understand after seeing it in action, it's impossible to comprehend without watching a live demo. Though the room in which the demonstration was uninvitingly dark, I managed to grab a quick video of Baiyon's performance. I suggest watching it below before going any further.
Even if the demo room had been a bit more luminous, it would still be fairly difficult to tell exactly how Baiyon was interacting with the music we heard. An explanation leveraged after the demo cleared up the most vital bulletpoint about lifelike: Baiyon wasn't just interacting with the music, he was creating it on the fly.
The backbeat, bassline and other core components from the track can all be chosen and manipulated using the Move controller, and augmented using one-shot samples which the player activates by swinging the controller in a certain direction. These samples come in sets which can be chosen with the face buttons (and reflected by the color of the Move's spherical tip), and distorted even further by moving the controller while holding down its center button.
Players can also use the PS3 headset as a kind of vocoder, which was only used for a few seconds of our lifelike preview -- just enough to fill my head with Framptonian possibilities. DJs will also be able to use two controllers at a time, adding effects manipulated by the controllers' distance from one another. This functionality, however, was not shown off.
We only saw one "track," which encompassed a number of beats, sample sets and visual elements -- all of which are timed to match your musical inputs -- but Baiyon's influence on the title was evident immediately. The song which was demonstrated, as you likely heard in the video above, bears a strong stylistic resemblance to Eden; a comparison strengthened by the Eden sprites which randomly materialized as Baiyon performed.
The game also allows any number of players to listen to another DJs mix as they perform it live, temporarily turning their remote living rooms into splintered trance parties. This might be a neat feature, if players are able to tune into a live performance by Baiyon or a similarly tech-savvy musician. However, I'm not sure I'd be quite so eager to tune into SmokesMadBluntz420's own personal soundscape.
PixelJunk lifelike is set to drop before the end of the year -- hopefully by then, we'll have found out what it feels like to create a few tracks ourselves. I'd also like to know if it's more easily digested in smaller chunks, because at the 30-minute mark, I actually began to wonder if it was some sort of cleverly disguised Orwellian brainwashing mechanism.