I think all of us as human beings are born with a certain affinity to fairy tales. Not because we all like princesses or fantastical worlds. No, it goes far deeper than that, and I think it all boils down to the basic concept of a fairy tale. Like so many others stories we read, the concept of good versus evil arises. Or even more basic than that, the concept of light banishing the darkness. I think we can all agree that there was definitely a monster underneath our bed or in the closet.
The only thing that kept that hidden beast from tearing us apart was the moment when our parents came into the room and turned on the light. That sweet golden glow was enough to keep the beast at bay. Of course they tried to tell us that the monster wasn’t real, but we all know it was. I applaud the performance though mom, dad, I really do. As children it is best that we know not the ways of the world. That being said I still sleep with a night light.
Okay, before I lose all of my credibility, I don’t actually believe monsters live in my closet or under my bed. I do however think that we all secretly enjoy a good fairy tale. So, when I saw first saw that Ubisoft was making a game called Child Of Light, I was intrigued. The trailer was a beautiful feast for the senses. Bright hand drawn colors that look like a painting, a soothing voice reading prose to us where each line rhymed, and utterly gorgeous music. How could this game not be the perfect masterpiece?
Well, not all things are perfect. No game is without some kind of flaws so I kept my hopes from climbing too high. Now that Child of Light is released, available as a download on the PlayStation store for a paltry $14.99, I was more than ready to dive into this world. It’s time to find out once and for all if this story ends with a “happily ever after.” No spoilers of course.
A Story That Could Have Been a Disney Movie, Were It Not Missing Something
Oh Child of Light, why did you do this to me? The story of this game opens with a captivating series of images set in the screen with a stained glass aesthetic. A soft voiced woman narrator tells the story of Aurora, daughter of a king. Every line rhymes with the next which is immediately appealing to the human ear. The set up is solid, if a little tragic. Aurora is transported to a magical world called Lemuria in the beginning of the game, leaving her father alone.
In this world, she discovers that the sun, moon, and stars have all vanished. Without revealing anything more, I want to say that I expected far more from this story. The in-game dialogue still keeps with the rhyming scheme, though it’s more of a everything other line rhyme scheme. None of it is voiced though. Certainly not a deal breaker, but the voice work by the narrator was so captivating, I would have loved to hear more from the cast of the game. Rhyme always sounds better when performed with a rhythm as opposed to reading the text in your own mind.
The story setup is good, but it never really goes anywhere until much later, and even then it still doesn’t capitalize on the fascinating and beautiful world of Lemuria. As I fought strange creatures and recruited interesting allies, I wanted the game to throw more story my way. The characters you recruit all have their own story, but the larger story of Lemuria is left untold or explored to its fullest potential.
Vast stretches of the game will go by where you simply explore and fight, with the occasional random banter between party members. With so many unique and interesting creatures and supporting characters, the game could have imparted so much more story. Modern masters of fairy tales like Disney and Pixar have proven that these classical tales don’t need to have a simple, surface level story. More themes can be explored than ever before, and Lemuria was ripe for this kind of literary exploration and yet it stuck with a mostly hands off story that only showed up when it seemed like it had been a while since we last saw it.
The story that is here, penned by the same writer as Far Cry 3, isn’t bad by any means. It’s just, with such a perfect fairy tale world, the story seemed like an afterthought. I know this game is a download and not a full retail release, but when almost twenty hours of gameplay, there is no excuse to include a least some more twists and turns to the story. This game is an RPG in every sense of the word, and the genre tends to impart connotations of a detailed world and story.
Instead, Child of Light opted for more a simplistic story that could have worked, but it lacks the punch or profound message that other contemporaries have used to bolster their otherwise simplistic stories. A simple story without deep undertones is nothing more than a simple story. It’s a shame, because Lemuria and Aurora deserved a better, more in-depth examination.
A Gameplay Match Made in Heaven
Child of Light is a mixture of two genres. On the one hand, it has some platforming elements and basic puzzle solving. On the other hand it’s a turn based RPG with some real time elements. It may have been done before, but this combination is a perfect match. It’s no secret that Child of Light runs on the Ubi-Art engine, the same engine that powered Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends. Child of Light borrows the same elements of platforming that made Rayman so fun. It’s not anywhere near as fast paced as its cousin, but it does borrow some elements like collecting orbs in a certain order to get a bonus.
Shortly into the game, you gain an ability to fly about the environments which makes traveling much easier. One thing in the game that I understood the mechanic of but still had a bone to pick with was the environmental hazards. Sure, touching spikes and getting blasted by fireballs should certainly do some damage. The key word there is some. Child of Light will deduct as much as twenty points of health for simply bumping into some spikes. Doesn’t seem like much until you factor in that your health is around two to three hundred hit points, even on the higher levels. So, uh, that’s not many “bumps” until you’re guzzling potions to keep from dying. There’s nothing more frustrating than getting into a battle after hitting a few fireballs and realizing that you’ve lost half your health.
You also have a trusty sidekick by the name of Igniculus who joins you in both traversal and battle. He is controlled by the right stick and can light up brightly by holding one of the triggers. He is used to solve puzzles, open special chests, and blinding enemies. You can have a second player connect their controller and control Igniculus for you, which may not seem very helpful in traversal, but in battle is it a massive help. I’ll explain soon.
Speaking of battles, the game employs a turn based system that I personally enjoyed very much. I’ve always like the turn based mechanic of classic RPG’s and while I understand that it’s not for everyone, I will offer an explanation that may sway you. Instead of the rather annoying random battles that the genre is known for, you can see the enemies in the environment. Approaching them from behind can also trigger a “surprise attack” that gives you an advantage. The same applies if they sneak up on you though, so be careful.
Once in battle, your turns are decided through a timeline of sorts on the bottom of the screen. The rectangular bar is divided in a roughly 75/25 split between a white section and a red section that is labeled as “Cast”. Character portraits for you and your allies, along with the enemies in the battle appear and begin sliding to across from left to right. When one of your allies hits the cast section, everything pauses so you can choose an action. Each action will take a certain amount of time to perform. This dictates how quickly they reach the end of the timeline and perform said action. Some actions have you shoot to the end and attack, while others, like spells, take longer.
If you’re attacked during the cast phase, you are “interrupted” and sent back to the beginning with no dinner, I mean without attacking. You can protect against this by defending when it’s your turn. Basically, this boils down to managing your time and watching where your enemies are on the timeline to decide what you will do. Elements of course play a role here, and Indiculus can actually use his light ability to slow an enemies approach down the timeline. This is where the cooperative feature I mentioned earlier comes into play. You see, with two allies and up to three enemies on the battlefield at once, trying to control everything yourself is nigh impossible.
I played the game with my girlfriend controlling Igniculus and myself focusing on the enemies, and the results were far improved. It’s not impossible to do it yourself, but having the weight off your shoulders makes you fight better for certain.
The other RPG elements that are present include branching skill trees for each character you find, and a gem crafting system that allows you place three gems on each character for stat boosts and elemental bonuses on your weapons. These both work fine, and will be a welcome addition for both hardcore RPG fans and more casual ones.
All in all, the gameplay of Child of Light is a great mixture of platforming and RPG elements. Some fans may have wished for a deeper combat system, more skills, or even equipment to switch out, but I for one think that the game found a great balance here between the more complex elements and the simpler ones. This way, all fans of the genre can enjoy the game.
A World of Dreams, Nightmares, and Unending Color
There has been an age old debate for some time now that will probably never end about how games are a form of art. To anyone fighting valiantly on the front lines of this ongoing war, I give you your secret weapon in the form of Child of Light. The Ubi-Art engine that powers this game creates a world that looks like it was loving crafted by hand and flows with the majesty and grace of the most beautiful art you can imagine. Standing still, soaring across the sky, or fighting with strange creatures in battle, all of it is rendered in a gorgeous painted style that makes the eyes weep for joy.
The character designs, particularly your allies, are are varied and interesting. You’ll come across everything from a jester, to a rat dressed like Robin Hood. The enemies are varied to with spiders, living tree like creatures, ghosts, and flaming demons. Child of Light’s greatest strength is this engine and it’s graphics. A close second is the music, which is fit to appear in a AAA game without questions. Soaring pieces and soothing melodies fill the world of Lemuria with passion and inspiration. If I was going to rate this game on presentation alone, it would be a ten. It’s that beautiful. Of course, we’re not rating solely this.
The PS4 Advantage: as Beautiful as Can Be
Child of Light isn’t going to burn up any processors, but the PS4 does bring us the game in a gorgeous 1080p resolution with smooth sixty frames per second gameplay. This allows us to experience the game in a top notch form where everything is smooth and crisp. There are no specific features to the PS4 like use of the touch pad or light bar, but the performance is there and easily achieved with the PS4 hardware.
Final Score: 7.5/10
Game Category: Action / Adventure
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert Date: 5/5/2014