Written by: Corey Bonanno, Special to CC2K
Seeing is believing.
Child of Light creates a unique experience with its use of RPG mechanics and hand painted art style that is beautiful, somber, and fantastical. It may not be the meatiest of RPG’s, clocking in around twelve hours, but it captivates from start to finish. It is a breath of fresh air for the hungry new console owners, and is also available on most platforms. With a cast of charming characters, exquisite backdrops, and a sweeping emotional score, Child of Light is a welcoming experience.
Imagine an expansive, sun-drenched landscape fading away in the distance. Immense stone castles float high above you, and waterfalls descend down to earth from islands in the sky. Imagine a dark and gnarled forest, roots twisting and choking as light fails to penetrate the cobwebbed canopy. Words simply cannot do the environments justice. As for moving through the world, you are gifted very early on with the ability to fly. Gliding through caverns and high above the tree tops allows the game to maintain a sense of wonder and helps exploration to feel more like a reward than a chore. Exploration never grows old. There are hidden chests, collectibles, and a beautifully realized world to discover, which is reward enough.
You play as Princess Aurora, the daughter of a wealthy Duke in 1800’s Austria. Unapologetically, the game opens with Aurora passing away in the night, where upon you awake in a dark and mysterious forest. Without much knowledge of her own death, she sets out to discover where she is and why she has been stolen away to this other world. After coming to realize her circumstances, she finds that her father in the living world has fallen ill. It is up to Aurora and her companions to find a way out of this realm and save her family from grief.
During your journey, you meet a motley mix of companions: a Jester who constantly fails to finish her own rhymes; a dopey dwarf-like wizard who finds his courage at the bottom of a well; and many other quirky travelers. You are accompanied throughout the game by Igniculus, a small spritely firefly that can be utilized in combat. It is nice to have a game with no real macho, superhuman, or hyper-sexualized characterizations and design choices. The direction of art in Child of Light really holds true to its mood and style to uphold a realized interpretation of fairytale dream world.
The crème de la crème of Child of Light is its simple and satisfying combat mechanics. Alongside a general turn-based combat system, Child of Light incorporates a real-time battle timeline that makes for a reactive and intuitive take on the genre. While fighting, each character on screen has an icon placed upon the timeline relating to their upcoming turn. The game pauses when one of your party reaches the casting point on the timeline. While paused you may make your decisions for combat, defense, fleeing, or swapping out party members. Aurora also uses Igniculus to slow specific enemies for a certain period of time. Effective use of this power allows you to slam an enemy, stop his turn, and lay down massive damage before he has time to recover. In the later hours of the game, this is crucial.
Trying to pull off an attack with an enemy ahead of you in the casting section will most likely result in being interrupted and not landing the attack. This is where decisions in defense come in to play, allowing you to block and rapidly move back up the timeline in half the time to then use an attack. The combat is thrilling and also exceptionally easy. For those who know their way around games like Final Fantasy or RPG’s in general, hard difficulty is highly recommended to get the most out of the experience.
The creators and directors of Child of Light set out to achieve vision and style, and they pulled it off beautifully. The game never compromises from what it set out to be and that commands respect. It is a Japanese-style RPG set in a western fairytale world that uses loose iambic pentameter to tell its story in the breadth of twelve hours. Even if this has not necessarily piqued your interest, I recommend you take the $15 plunge and find out for sure firsthand.
Child of Light: 8.5-10