There have been more games released these days that go back to the need for good storytelling in this interactive medium. Many try to be as profound and breathtaking as possible, and a lot of them do fall short of their intention. While most of them have been made by earnest developers, it’s not easy to create a game that
Child of Light is a puzzle platformer and turn-based role-playing game hybrid from Ubisoft. At first sight, it looks to be a fairy tale in playable form, with cutesy elements and a world that can be explored with childlike wonder. But as the player proceeds through it, the colorful visuals turn out to mask a story full of melancholy, despite its lightheartedness.
For those who have played South Park: The Stick of Truth, which is another Ubisoft product, they share similar elements. They’re both sidescrollers with turn-based combat, although Child of Light is a bit more fleshed out and polished in its gameplay. It’s as if while Stick of Truth is a parody of sorts, Child of Light shows what is possible with this design.
The story is about Aurora, the daughter of a 19th century Austrian duke who raised her alone and eventually went off to marry another woman. One night, she falls ill and seemingly dies in her sleep, but actually awakens in the magical land of Lemuria. She meets a firefly named Igniculus, and they explore Lemuria together to find a way to return to her world and mend what must be mended.
Narration and dialogue are done in poetry, which gives the game a lot of artistic quality. It does make the story fly over the heads of those who are not literarily-inclined. Gamers who are more into action-oriented gameplay may not take to it as much and could think of it as boring, but those who have played a handful of turn-based RPGs before or even people who just like reading prose and poetry will appreciate this game for its storytelling and atmosphere.
Visuals feature artwork that looks hand-drawn, quite a bit like The Banner Saga. The environments are painted, which gives them a delicateness that makes the game look dream-like. Going with it is the musical score, which suits the gameplay very well and builds up the atmosphere.
The exploratory part of the game is platforming with puzzles that make use of light, courtesy of Igniculus from the energy gained from floating light orbs collected throughout the game. The controls are quite responsive, enabling players to control both Aurora and Igniculus at the same time, with the girl traversing the terrain while the firefly floating around to collect pick-ups.
When there’s an enemy in the way, they either approach you if they see you or you can approach them for behind to surprise them. Once either are approached, the game transitions to turn-based combat with an active time battle system that is reminiscent of Grandia II. Aurora can then either attack with her sword, defend against incoming attacks, or cast spells. In the meantime, Igniculus can still be controlled to find pick-ups to potentially recover HP and SP in the middle of battle.
After winning a battle, experience points are gained for leveling up, and Aurora gains skill points that can be used to gain spells and stat bonuses to make her get stronger throughout her journey. In between the platforming and battles, cutscenes show how Aurora’s journey is progressing. Most of the poetry employed are well written, although some may think that the metering may not be perfect throughout, but it does give the game its fairy tale quality.
Above all, Child of Light is an adventure that sucks players into the sadness of Aurora’s predicament and its resolution. Perhaps the only flaw to this game is that it’s not for those who are not into story-driven games such as this (like those people who think that games like Gone Home and The Stanley Parable are pretentious). Above all, it is priced at $15, which makes this game quite a bargain even at full price.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 9/10