Child of Light (Xbox One)
It’s not often you see RPGs hit digital stores such as the Xbox LIVE Arcade and Playstation Network Store, and aside from Torchlight, I don’t recall the last time I was impressed by one. ‘Child of Light’ from Ubisoft (developed by four Ubisoft studios) is a game that wears its influences on its sleeve. Inspired by JRPGs and Studio Ghibli films, Child of Light offers a unique experience that while charming and fun to play, doesn’t feel much more than a visual experience at times.
Child of Light casts players as Aurora, a young girl growing up in Austria in 1895. Aurora contracts a mysterious ailment while asleep one day and awakens in a strange land, Lemuria. Lemuria has had its sun moon and stars stolen by the Black Queen. Early into her journey, Aurora will meet Igniculus the firefly, who will accompany her on her journey to restore the celestial bodies. As interesting as the story is, not one hint is given of Aurora’s actual fate. Yes, it is highly likely that resolving the in-dream (other dimension) story will also awaken Aurora, but if there’s one thing I’m tired of in games, movies and other things, it’s when someone is ripped from their world and they don’t give it a second thought.
Visually, Child of Light is absolutely gorgeous. Apparently, Studio Ghibli films were a huge influence on the look of Child of Light, and although it really is a beautiful game, I don’t see anything particularly “Ghibli-like”. That doesn’t change the fact that the characters and environments are stunning, though. It’s not just the environments that lend Child of Light its dreamy atmosphere, but also a particularly impressive use of lighting. Inside some of the caves, Aurora is scarcely visible, and instead of the norm, where characters and foregrounds are visible, backgrounds are bright and cast a shadow over Aurora and the foreground, ala Braid and Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet.
There really aren’t any flaws or faults with Child of Lights visuals, as every individual environment and creature in it perfectly complements the other. Even Aurora’s red hair flows around her like a crimson cloud.
Gameplay is similar to other 2D platformers, although Child of Light refreshingly allows the player to explore and progress through the game at their own pace. As everything with Child of Light is extremely appealing from a visual perspective, players may want to take their time exploring and really take in all that there is around them. At the start of the game, Aurora can only walk at an average pace throughout her surrounds, but eventually, players will unlock flight and other quicker means of travel.
As one would expect of a platformer, Child of Light offers a mix of puzzles and exploration. It also offers JRPG-esque combat, which is actually quite engaging, unlike most JRPG combat. I thought that I had experienced every type of puzzle there was to play in a platformer, but Child of Light managed to prove me wrong, in the best possible way. Early in the game, Aurora encounters a locked door. On the wall behind the door are three large symbols, which are like elongated versions of the symbols on a pillar in front of her. The player must then guide Igniculus in front of the symbols and project them onto the wall. Moving him around slightly will stretch the light and shadows to match the longer symbols on the wall. It didn’t take long ot figure out but it did make me appreciate how clever its design was. Unfortunately not all puzzles in Child of Light are equally clever, as I regret to inform you that you will encounter the annoyingly-dated, “find a way to get this heavy box onto a switch that opens a door for you” puzzle.
When walking or flying around the environment, Aurora will encounter monsters also wandering about. If the player collides with them, a battle ensues. The battles are very much like something out of Final Fantasy but do have a more fun and engaging series of features. For one thing, in addition to being able to hit your enemies and cast spells, you can time your attacks so that they interrupt your enemy’s attacks, forcing them to take longer to attack. At first, this isn’t very useful as they will still manage to attack you again briefly, but when you have a companion in your party, this tactic manages to be more advantageous, as your companion can use that time to interrupt them again, or cast a spell or skill that takes slightly longer to pull off.
When you’re not in combat, you’re also able to find usable augmentations that can be placed on you, your attack or defense to have various effects, such as inflicting additional elemental damage, increased defense or health or even gaining extra experience from each battle.
Now while Child of Light is a great game (and it is) one thing in particular I take issue with. It feels as though a few things have taken a back seat to the game’s beautiful art direction. For one thing, there can be large gaps between story events. Even though I like the gorgeous art and exploring the world, it feels as though I’m on my own for an almost unbearable amount of time. Sure, Aurora has Ingiculus to keep her company, but the two never talk throughout the majority of Aurora’s adventure.
- Gorgeous art direction
- Takes the best of multiple genres and combines them
- Large gaps in story events
Child of Light is a gorgeous game that has fun and rewarding gameplay. Unlike some JRPGs which have influenced it, it manages to be engaging and accessible, and truly does combine the best parts of all of its influences. JRPG and platformer fans won’t want to miss this one.