As you start up Child of Light and the Narrator begins her tale, it may sound somewhat like a bedtime story, but really that’s the best way to sum up the game – its the ultimate bedtime story. Child of Light will lead you on the most beautiful, magical and unforgettable adventure you’re ever likely to come across.
Child of Light tells the story of Aurora, the daughter of the Duke of Austria who lives with her Father in their castle until one night, she falls desperately ill. With no one seemingly able to help her, Aurora never wakes and her Father grieves for her. However, the focus switches to the distant and magical fantasy world of Lemuria where Aurora suddenly finds herself awakened. Aurora soon learns that Lemuria is ruled over by an evil Queen that has stolen the Sun, Moon and Stars and cast the land into darkness. Seeking a way back to her Father, Aurora agrees to help and sets out to reclaim the Sun, Moon and Stars, meeting a whole host of strange companions and allies along the way. The dialogue for the entire game is presented as poetry which is an impressive feat in itself. No matter whether its the longer dialogue scenes or just simply passing comments from other characters, everything is told in the same charming rhymes that give the game a unique feel.
At first glance, Child of Light may seem like any other 2D platformer and, sure enough at the beginning of the game you’ll find yourself moving blocks to make jumps, pulling switches to open doors and so on. However, after only a short while, Aurora will gain a pair of wings and then, no longer rooted to the ground, you are able to freely explore the large and varied environments. Exploring is going to be something you’ll want to do here as well thanks to the staggeringly beautiful artwork. Playing through Child of Light is almost like running around inside a painting, with beautifully detailed foregrounds and, perhaps even more impressive, vast sweeping backgrounds that give you a glimpse out into the world of Lemuria. As you go about your quest, you can often find yourself standing still to admire the background that spreads out behind you, wondering what some strange creature in the distance might be or what some far away building might be used for.
The beautiful graphics are complemented by one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard. With the Narrator being the only voice acting in the game, the music is used brilliantly to set the scene for each moment. During your exploration of some of Lemuria’s larger, open areas, you will be accompanied by tranquil pianos and violins; whereas during the more intense boss fights, particularly the later ones, the music quickens dramatically, with vocals being added in to give it that real epic feel. Likewise, when you visit the towns in your adventures, you’ll find the music takes on a much cheerier note. Everywhere you go, the music just seems to fit so perfectly.
As you explore Lemuria there are treasure chests galore, some out in the open and some hidden which contain all manner of potions to help in your journey. There are also items that permanently boost stats for your party which, again, are usually hidden and there are Confession pages to find which reward you with an Achievement or Trophy. All of these things make exploring worth while and finding your way around every inch of the map can really pay off. There are also various puzzles to complete throughout the game; none of which are really very hard at all but it does offer a nice change from all the combat. The exploration is aided by the main companion within the game – Igniculus the Firefly. This funny little critter becomes Aurora’s main friend within Lemuria and is useful for both exploration and combat. As you explore the maps, Igniculus is controlled using the right analogue stick (or even by a second player if you choose) and can open certain special chests, move through walls to pick up items and also light the way for Aurora in dark areas. Moving Igniculus around may seem awkward at first but its not long before you rely on him as an invaluable way of collecting everything you need from around the map.
The artwork continues to impress with both the allies and enemies as well. As you progress through the game, you will find your way to various towns and villages that are home to the inhabitants of Lemuria. Each of these quirky races are different, with their own personalities and back story and the towns themselves offer a safe haven to explore and chat. The monsters are equally well designed and, though some models do get repeated throughout the game, there’s still a decent variety of weird and wonderful enemies you will encounter.
Child of Light’s combat is turn-based, playing out like older JRPG’s such as Final Fantasy. Aurora will meet a fairly large party of companions and during a battle you have access to two of them at any given time and can freely switch between them. While the combat system is nothing new, its solid and works very well, utilizing the classic Rock, Paper Scissors system of different element types. This means that, for example, water elemental attacks are strong against fire creatures, but barely do any damage to water creatures, lightning attacks are strong against water but weak against earth, and so on. As you build up your party you will have access to characters with specific spells and attacks that use certain elements but there are is also the Oculi crafting system which allows you to create gems to equip into weapons and armour to give different elemental attacks and defenses. You may well have guessed of course that its wise to split these up across your characters so that you have a wide range of different elemental attacks to take out different enemies.
Igniculus also helps out during battle in a number of different ways. By shining his light over an enemy, that creature is slowed down in the timeline and takes much longer for its turn to become available. Shining the light over an ally instead will heal them steadily over time but both of these actions reduce Igniculus’s light gauge and must be managed carefully. Enemies can also be interrupted by striking them at the right time, just before they cast their ability, which then pushes them right back down the timeline and they must wait their turn again. Of course the same thing can happen to your own party so deciding when to defend or to use magic or potions that improve defense or make you invulnerable to interrupts for a short period can make for some tactical thinking. On normal difficulty however, you’ll most likely find that you don’t need to do a whole lot of this at all, the fights are mostly quite easy. Infact in my own playthrough I only found myself struggling and needing to use potions and revise my tactics during the final boss. The game becomes more of an interesting challenge on the Hard setting however so a lot of players may want to start there. It would perhaps have been nice to see the local co-op done a little differently though. Having a friend take control of Igniculus does let them get involved if they are watching the game but considering the battles take place with 2 characters each time, it may have been better to have slightly more involved co-op.
As well as the main adventure, you will also come across various side quests from NPCs that often lead you through optional areas to clear out monsters or set you off to complete an objective. While none of the more puzzling quests are overly difficult to work out, I did like the fact that the game doesn’t hold your hand and tell you what to do, you do actually have to think what the quest is asking you to do, or maybe remember where it was you saw that seemingly pointless item awhile back that you now need again. Completing the quests give you rewards and also of course give Trophies and Achievements so its well worth looking out for them.
Child of Light is an RPG so as you complete battles and earn experience, each of your characters will level up. The game simplifies the leveling process for you though by automatically assigning stat points to each character; all you’ll need to do is choose where to spend your ability points. Each character has multiple ability trees that offer different types of abilities. Until about half way through the game, a lot of these abilities will be locked off but during a single playthrough you will be able to learn quite a lot; I reached around lvl50 in my game. Whats more, the game does offer a new Game + mode once completed which allows you to keep your stats and abilities and increases the difficulty of the enemies, giving the game great replay value.
Over all, Child of Light is a beautiful game that you can tell has been carefully crafted with love and attention to detail. The artwork and music is utterly breathtaking and the story, while nothing overly innovative, is presented in a unique and charming way that makes you really want to discover whats around the corner. The quirky and lovable cast of characters will keep you company through your adventure and their own stories will often leave you feeling more than a little emotional. The combat is solid and entertaining, though many may find it a little too easy on their first playthrough but you never have to grind levels and most enemies can be avoided if you are returning to a previous area. The game clocks in anywhere between 10-12 hours first time through and then goes on to New Game + and considering it only costs around £12 to buy, there’s really no reason to let this one slip by you. Child of Light is an experience that will stay with you for a long time and is already, undoubtedly one of my top games of the year.
Screenshots taken on the PS4 version
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