Child of light was something that instantly interested me from an artistic standpoint. Back when it first came out, I initially saw the collectors edition on Amazon that bundled a lovely poster with it and this sold me the game instantly. It was also at a reasonable price point, so years later, I decided to head back into Child of Light’s world and see where it stands.
Platform: PC (Reviewed), PS3, PS4, Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Initial Release: April 2014
As soon as you boot up the main menu, you’re greeted with the beauty of this art style; it has this watercolour ink feel. It even has this natural moving bobbing effect, akin to breathing, letting you know that this world is truly alive. On a side note, when I left this game alone of the menu screen it has this gorgeous idle animation where it shows you different places around Lemuria, the main area.
Story wise, it has you follow the tale of Aurora and her family in the year of 1895. After a family tragedy, she’s overcome with grief and becomes bedridden. Seemingly dead, she then wakes within a mysterious new land; all this is intro is handed to the player in the form of a bedtime story style with a picture book style of cinematic. Once awake, you’ll be exploring the new land from the altar that you rise from, learning that this was once a shining example of land being ruled by a graceful of light. This leader is now gone and in her place, Umbra, Queen of the Night, and her daughters are here to steal the light.
Along your way, you’ll meet a firefly who later is revealed to be named Igniculus. A couple of other party members join the journey that you’re undertaking; such as Rubella from the circus who has a rather quite odd problem of pronouncing words and also the manliest thirteen-year-old called Finn, due to his race ageing rapidly. All of these people will aid you to get back to your home as Aurora is getting more and more homesick, even with the company; she is still rather still an upbeat and sassy child which makes for some great dialogue as well.
Gameplay will have you traverse the world of Lemuria in a side-scrolling fashion with the WASD keys or thumbsticks when using the controller respectfully. With the mouse, you can control Igniculus, who can be used in a variety of fashions such as blinding enemies to have an advantage in combat situations or puzzle solving and unlocking contraptions. Combat is in a turn-based fashion with the additional element of the timeline system, which means your attacks can be interrupted and the same can happen to enemies. Other mechanics lie within Igniculus as he can either be used to heal or use his immense light to haze an enemy to slow them down and overtake them in the timeline. All of these have limited actions as they are quite powerful attributes, although it can be replenished by the wishing flowers in the arena. Lastly, there is a crafting system in place to enchant weapons and other equipment to boost stats, alongside a levelling mechanic that has a skill tree for each member of the party.
Respectfully, these either grant permanent buffs to stats such as HP or gift the character with new passive and usable skills such as Starlight, which can be further upgraded to hurt more than one enemy. Whilst the timeline mechanic did make the game rather interesting and add more ‘flow’ to a turn-based combat system, there were problems that crept into the light. Included in this is a lack of variety in character skill trees. Each character has HP, MP and a couple of spell upgrades but besides that, they fall into a generic mage, rogue and warrior archetype. Throwing in a more variety to the mix and a larger party system, this could have had been one of the turn-based games to date.
When it comes to puzzle solving, some of them require using Igniculus’ light to shine on objects and create shadows to match etchings on the wall to unlock new stages; his light can also be used to get stardust and slow other contraptions. The puzzles in Child of Light were simple but rather effective. Using Igniculus to solve some areas was a nice touch, instead of having to always use the main character on her own. They never felt forced or annoying.
The HUD is simple and only has a small character card displaying the stats; there are also a couple of instances where there’s an interaction button to move objects or transition place to place. The timeline is clear and present at the bottom when in combat, showing every character icon and where Igniculus is present in respect to others in the stage. One of the main gripes that I have about this game is something that seems as a glaring oversight in terms of combat and design. There is no enemy HP bar. This got rather annoying in longer sections of combat encounters as not knowing how close something is to death, I would potentially waste a solid chunk of my MP when they could have been brought down with a finishing blow from a basic slash. It’s just an odd design choice for a game like this.
Enemy design is fitting throughout the game. Forest creatures are the main meat of what you’re going to be battling early on. You’ll see a lot of bug creatures as you’re roaming forests, such a different types of spiders but once progressing into later stages, you’ll be introduced to a wider range. During the Tree of Thorns section, as your work the way up to the peak, you’ll fight against enemies like Harpies but once hitting the apex of the tree, there is this huge flying creature. This is where the game shines with its combat and design, as even though this wasn’t my favourite boss encounter, it was a completely different one. Later on, trekking deep below the surface, you’ll come face to face with an elemental hydra. This fight is an example of how the combat is a treat through having to use all possible skills at hand, matching certain elements to take it down and also making sure you have the time to defend anything you need too.
Child of Light felt like I was entering a bedtime time story, it was honestly refreshing to see something like this. Whilst there has been plenty of games featuring children or young protagonists they normally take a very dark turn and often preemptively snuff out the fires of a game that could have been something greater; Ubisoft has let itself stay in its own lane so we get this beauty of a title. The music choice was also a pleasant addition, as it reminded me of something similar to Kingdom Hearts, and an art style which feels like a mix of Roald Dahl in sections and other areas that have their own aura entirely.
Overall, this game isn’t a massive AAA title or any sort of substantial release, nor was it marketed as such. However, I did like what this game had on offer for me; it took rather simplistic mechanics that have been in gaming for a long time and gave them more depth with mechanics like the timeline system. Which, I wouldn’t mind seeing again in another title, although it would thoroughly suit being placed in something with more fleshed out combat choices and viable enemy stats, I would happily see a return of this style of play. Some oversights are present and the game is short but it offered a fair price from the very start. With a couple of tweaks, it would be a fantastic gem of a game but, sadly, some little things that could have gone a long way aren’t here. As it stands, it’s a quaint little title with a bunch of adorable characters and an interesting yet simple combat system but has potential.