One of the most beautiful games ever made, this delightful RPG is a must buy for fans of the genre
Rendered in the light mist and fading shades of a watercolour painting, Child of Light charms and bewitches from the very first screen. It’s a testament to the power of Ubisoft’s UbiArt Framework engine, previously used to build the two most recent Rayman games (Origins and Legends), and there’s rarely a moment that doesn’t dazzle and inspire as you flutter through its fairy tale world of gnarled trolls and towering giants.
Other games have tried the painterly look before, such as The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, but all look like crude finger drawings compared this
Accompanied by a beautiful, melancholic score by Coeur de Pirate, Child of Light tells the tale of young Aurora, an Austrian princess who falls into a deep sleep and awakens in the mysterious land of Lemuria. Here the light has been sealed away by the dark queen Umbra, and Aurora must fight to save this strange world by restoring the world’s sun, moon and stars to their rightful place. Only then will she be able to reunite with her beloved father and return to the land of the living.
At first, Child of Light appears to be a simple 2D platformer, but Aurora soon gains a pair of wings to let her soar high into the heavens and explore her world more fully. As her ruby red locks undulate round her face, she’s a wonderfully agile character to control, and Lemuria’s vast mix of tiny passageways and huge open landscapes beg to be explored. The gorgeous watercolour artwork peels away to reveal hidden tunnels when you draw near and coloured orbs released from nearby plants both help to guide you and restore your health.
Light puzzling elements are scattered throughout the game
Admittedly, the map is next to useless unless you want to travel instantly between certain landmarks, but in this case, we rarely felt the need for one. We preferred to be left alone to sniff out every last nook and cranny, and unlike your typical Metroidvania game which relies on you coming back later with additional power-ups to reach every last secret, there’s nothing here you can’t obtain the first time you stumble on it. The only thing you may want to backtrack for is a small trading sidequest.
Child of Light’s main strength, though, is its innovative turn-based combat. This revolves round an Active Time Battle (ATB) system that’s not too dissimilar from those found in Final Fantasy games. A timeline bar runs along the bottom of the screen and your pair of party members must wait their turn until it’s time to “cast” or act. Some attacks take longer to cast than others, though, and it’s the small “casting” section of the timeline where the battle system really comes alive.
With only two party members at your disposal, you’re frequently outnumbered when it comes to fights, but your huge party of playable characters gives you plenty to work with
For in addition to your various party members that you can switch in and out on each turn, you also have control of Aurora’s firefly sidekick, Igniculus. By moving him over an enemy and pressing the trigger button, you can slow down their attacks, allowing your party members to potentially overtake them on the timeline bar and attack first. If you manage to attack an enemy while they too are in the timeline’s casting zone, you can interrupt their attack and knock them back into waiting mode. Igniculus can’t slow them down forever, though, as he only has a limited amount of power. Alternatively, hovering Igniculus over a party member will help heal them in times of need.
The same casting rules apply to you, of course, giving enemies the chance to get the upper hand if you don’t manage to overtake them in time. It’s a simple yet engaging system that constantly keeps players on their toes, and by focusing more on meddling with the actual battle mechanics rather than individual character abilities, it also offers a refreshing change of pace to other ATB-based games and helps Child of Light hold its own against the RPG giants.
Aurora will help many townsfolk on her journey but the cursed, drunken crows of Capilli village are among the most memorable
That said, a little more emphasis on different skills and abilities wouldn’t have gone amiss, as Child of Light’s extensive skill trees are rather thin on desirable upgrades. Instead, you have to wade through dozens of minor stat improvements before you can unlock a new ability, and even then it’s often only a stronger version of a skill you already possess.
This can make battles early on in the game feel a little repetitive, but this sense of monotony certainly improves once your party starts bulking out with new characters who each have their own strengths and talents. There are also gems or “oculi” to craft and mount onto your equipment to help improve your stats and resistance or add an elemental weapon type.
Child of Light can be played co-operatively as well, as a second player can take control of Nibiculus
Skill sets aside, Child of Light is an absolute gem of an RPG. It sets the bar for what small, downloadable games can achieve with its art style, and fans of the genre will relish its innovative take on the ATB combat system. While the game’s rhyming dialogue may not be to everyone’s tastes, this gorgeous twelve hour journey is one of the most substantial and finely crafted download titles we’ve played in months. It wins a Budget Buy award.