Child of Light is the story of Aurora – a girl living in 1895 Austria, daughter to an unnamed Duke. In the real world, Aurora dies due to a mysterious illness, only to wake up in the fantasy land of Lemuria. Within moments of waking, she is tasked with retrieving the sun, moon and stars of Lemuria which were stolen by the Queen of Night. And so her journey begins.
The first thing you will no doubt notice about Child of Light is the art style. The entire game is designed to look like it was drawn using water colors, and the result is beautiful. The backgrounds are rich and detailed, the characters look simple-yet-distinct and the monsters look sufficiently menacing (As long as you like palette swaps). There is also a distinct lack of clutter onscreen; apart from a small status box in the corner, the screen is clutter-free to better enjoy the beauty of the game world surrounding you.
The second thing you’ll notice is the rhyming. In Child of Light, everything rhymes. And “Everything” really does mean “Everything”: from the spoken cutscenes, to the written dialogue, to the random chatter of NPCs – all in rhymes. In fact, the entire dialogue with the first party member you encounter is a reference to the game rhyming; on multiple occasions Aurora will say something that doesn’t fit only to be corrected to a word that does rhyme by your friendly floating orb of light and traveling thesaurus. Overall, while sometimes forced, rhyming is definitely a great way to really bring home the feel of a fairy tale or bedtime story.
The gameplay itself is split into two parts, the first being the platformer part. It will have you exploring the beautiful 2D environments to loot chests, find hidden treasures, solve simple puzzles and, of course, initiate combat with the baddies. The levels range in size from small interiors to giant exteriors filled with hidden tunnels and secret passages tucked just off the beaten path. Be warned, however – there is no local map for the area you’re in so getting lost or finding an objective might be a bit tricky at times, especially when you need to backtrack for a side-quest and find a specific item or person somewhere in the huge zone.
A major part of the platforming segments involves using Igniculus – Using his ability to generate light, he is often used to open special containers that only he can open, as well as activate various buttons and switches that are, once more, accessible only to him. The game’s puzzles are also largely Igniculus-centric: you will be using his light to illuminate colored glass panes, Roman numerals, mystical runes and so on in order to open doors and progress onward. Igniculus’ light can also be used as an offensive tool – shining it on a monster before attacking it gives you a “Surprise Attack” bonus, moving your starting position closer to the “Cast” segment of the combat time line.
Controlling Igniculus during a single player game is easy and fluid – It’s as simple as using right stick to move and L2 to illuminate. Furthermore, as Igniculus is immune to any and all forms of harm (he can’t even be targeted by anything) you shouldn’t be worried about moving him manually anyway. He’ll follow you around happily and won’t get in the way. Unfortunately, it also means co-op doesn’t really feel all that cooperative. Aurora and Igniculus work well together, don’t get me wrong, but there just isn’t enough workload to justify a second human player controlling the little guy.
The second part of the gameplay is, of course, the combat part. Once you bump into a monster on the overworld, a JRPG-like combat sequence ensues. Both you and your enemies execute moves based on their progress on a “Time Line”, with various moves requiring different execution times and allowing for a varying degree of interruption. Once you get the hang of it, combat becomes much more a chore than a challenge: the enemies aren’t really hard, with even the boss monsters presenting a long, but ultimately easy, challenge. Top it off with the usual “Type X Enemy is weak to Type Y Damage” and you can mostly button-mash your way through combat.
The combat moves themselves are character-specific, with each character having a set of moves that matches the character’s purpose: Aurora’s abilities all focus on offense while those of the healer companion focus on healing and protection magic and so on. Aurora will meet and recruit the usual band of misfits, usually by completing some small task to earn their trust and aid, each with its own set of moves and abilities.
Overall, the combat experience could have been much more than what it is. Despite the potential in combining abilities from your different party members, there is usually very little reason to do so. Aside from the boss fights, you will rarely be required to really plan your attack and instead go with what you like best. For the casual gamer, it might be enough. For the more hardcore RPG player, it seems like a missed opportunity to really bring out the unique skills of the characters. To make matters worse, during combat you are also limited to just two party members (Igniculus excluded) engaged at any given moment. While the others still gain experience from the battle, it seems like a waste to have them around once you have your favorite setup going. For the majority of the game I found myself alternating between two companions almost exclusively, leaving the others as unused placeholders.
Of course, what would an RPG be without skill trees? Well, it would be Child of Light. The skill trees in the game are not so much “Trees” as they are a crapshoot of seemingly-random skill bonuses tied into a single progression path. For example, upgrading Aurora’s sword attack, Slash, to rank 2 requires taking two upgrades that add MP. Slash does not require any MP. Your party members’ skill trees are equally nonsensical – to upgrade your mage’s Lightning attack would require taking several strength upgrade that, once again, serve no purpose not only to this particular branch but to the character as a whole.
Equipment in Child of Light is yet another element taken to the minimalist approach. Instead of the usual fare of swords, staves, bows, shields and so on, there are Oculi – colored gems you obtain during your travels. An Oculus can be equipped in a weapon, armor or utility slot and the bonus they provide changes accordingly. For example, a ruby equipped in the weapon slot, provides a fire damage bonus. The same ruby taken to the utility slot provides a maximum HP boost instead.
Overall, is Child of Light worth your time? The art style and the unique rhyming presentation are worth at least a cursory glance. The story itself is enjoyable, if not surprising or unique, and the characters are likable and fleshed-out. While combat is definitely one of the game’s weaker aspects, it is still not so bad as to be entirely unenjoyable (not to mention that a lot of it is optional) and I personally had a lot of fun tinkering with it and finding just the right combination of skills and Oculi to perfectly fit every zone and every enemy. Child of Light is a great game that you will enjoy – the good greatly outnumbers the bad and once you take your first few steps in Lemuria, you will not want to leave until you’ve seen the story through.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.