Published on May 10th, 2014 | by vrex1
Review: Child of Light
Developer(s): Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Massive, Ubisoft Ukraine, Ubisoft Bucharest
Platform(s): Xbox 360 & Xbox One (via Xbox LIVE Arcade), PlayStation 3 & PlayStation 4 (via PlayStation Network), Wii U (via Wii U eShop), PC
Release Date: April 29, 2014 (Wii U), April 30, 2014 (Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, PC)
Perfect (or close enough to it)
Child of Light is a mixture of a puzzle-platform game and an RPG, set on a 2D playing field. Before I get into the gameplay and such, I just want to discuss some of its contemporaries – that being other “arcade” titles. It is hard to talk about games of this style without comparing them to Limbo, which although isn’t an RPG, is a significant example of a 2D puzzle-platform in recent years. In both cases, you play as a child who wakes up in a forest and with little to no explanation, you begin to explore. Puzzle-platform mechanics are similar; pulling and pushing objects in order to traverse obstacles or trigger switches. That’s as far as the similarities go; the feel of the two games is completely different. Limbo contains no dialogue, is mono-chrome, eerie, and gruesome. I’ll discuss Child of Light’s game feel later in the review. Another contemporary I’d like to discuss is Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, simply due to the controls. It’s one of the few games I could think of that controlled two different characters with the two different analog sticks on the controller, so I thought it was worth mentioning. In regards to genre and gameplay, Child of Light and Brothers have nothing in common.
Now that comparisons are out of the way, onto the review; let’s not delay!
If there is one word I could use to describe Child of Light, it would be charming. The entire dialogue of the game is spoken in rhyme, like a fairy tale or nursery rhyme (like my subpar transition…) giving it a very distinct flow and feel. Child of Light’s art direction is mostly based on a watercolour-like effect, mimicking a children’s picture book, ultimately adding to that charming feel I mentioned before. The most charming aspect of this game is no doubt the main character, Aurora. She’s a sweet, little girl with long red hair that you can easily identify from the cover art of the game. In contrast to the watercolour art, Aurora seems to have a subtle 3D effect to her. I didn’t notice right away until I really looked at her, but it does help distinguish her from the background and other characters in a very subtle way.
Without giving much of the plot away, a princess from Austria named Aurora falls into a deep sleep – considered by her father to be dead which plunges him into grief – and she wakes in a strange land called Lemuria. She wanders the forest, calling out to her father to wake her from her dream when she comes across a strange firefly who is looking for an aurora. Once she explains to him that is her name, the firefly leads Aurora to The Lady of the Forest. She informs Aurora that she is not dreaming, and all of the dark creatures present in Lemuria are real; the Queen of Night, Umbra, has overtaken Lemuria with darkness. The only way to restore peace is to bring back the stolen sun, moon, and stars and bring light back to Lemuria, and it is up to Aurora – the Child of Light – to bring them back, if she ever wants to return to her old life with her father in Austria.
Aurora is controlled via the left stick (keep in mind I played this game on the Xbox 360), moving around in the 2D realm of Lemuria. She can move crates and boxes in order to get onto higher ledges she can’t jump to, or can use them to trigger buttons in order to open doors to progress. There are many enemies Aurora can encounter and can engage in battle. Child of Light runs off an Active Time Battle system, similar to Final Fantasy and the like, in which all the characters and enemies present in the battle are displayed on a timeline at the bottom section of the screen. Character icons move from the “wait” portion of the timeline and then once they enter the “cast” section, an action can be chosen. You can choose from attacking, defending, or using an item. Every action has a particular cast time, ranging from immediately to very long. These cast times indicate how fast the character’s icon moves from the beginning of the cast section (from where you can choose an action), to the end of the cast section (in which that action takes place). Viewing your enemies’ speeds allows for some strategy; if you are attacked before you reach the end of the casting period, you will be “interrupted” and knocked back outside and will have to wait to cast again. That being said, you can also attack your enemies before they finish casting in order to interrupt them.
There are different elements that can be used in battle that enemies can resist or be weak against. Learning what enemies are weak to certain elements are trial and error, as there is no true indication to their particular element other than appearance. Magic attacks have their own elements, but you can also associate elements to your melee weapon using items called Occuli. They’re gemstones associated with an element, and are found after battles and in chests all over Lemuria. You can craft the Occuli you have together to make stronger ones as well.
The final RPG element I want to discuss is the game’s skill tree. It’s very similar to another one of Ubisoft Montreal’s games, Far Cry 3, in which they are multiple branches of skills. You can invest in a skill with skill points, which you gain after leveling up. All party members have their own skill trees. Speaking of party members, you can befriend multiple characters throughout the game, but can only use one in battle alongside you at a time.
You can also control a second character, a firefly named Igniculus, using the right stick. You can light him up using the left trigger, using his light to illuminate dark places, activate particular chests and switches, and freeze enemies on the field so you can avoid them. His light is powered by items called Wishes, which are little balls of light that can be gathered from special plants. Igniculus also plays a role in battle, in which you can use his light to slow enemies’ progression down the timeline given you have enough wishes to keep him active. His light can also be used in battle to heal Aurora or the other party member. His light also allows for some light puzzles throughout the game. If you have a second controller, Igniculus can be controlled by another person, allowing for co-op play. This is a great way to introduce friends, significant others, or even younger siblings or parents to games, as Igniculus’ role isn’t too taxing for a beginner to pick up.
The final thing I wish to discuss is the spectacular soundtrack. It’s currently available on iTunes for $9.99, composed by a local artist from Montreal named Cœur de pirate. Apart from one track with vocals, the 18-song soundtrack is dominated by violin and piano, and also utilizes other band instruments. The softer, piano-violin tracks play when in the over-world whereas the more dramatic songs containing other instruments like brass and drums are used in battle. The mixture of both the soft and dramatic tracks really brings the game to life; the solemn over-world tracks really give you a sense of what the state of Lemuria is currently in.
Overall, the game is very charming and has surprising depth for a $15 title. Art alone makes this game very unique, but its battle system is also an interesting twist to the Active Time Battle system. The rhyming dialogue can sometimes feel forced, but my only qualm with the game so far is that sometimes you can miss dialogue between Aurora and Igniculus while you’re traveling in the over-world if you happen to not catch their small speech bubbles. Obviously, this is just flavour text, as any important dialogue would be outright stated in cut-scene. Normal seems fairly easy as well, so seasoned RPG players might want to skip straight to Hard in order to get more enjoyment out of the game. There are also a lot of winding paths and sometimes it is very difficult to know which way to go, but again, it’s a small issue I have with an overall fantastic game.
+ art direction
+ interesting battle mechanics
– how to progress is sometimes confusing