Let me start by saying you don’t have to be a girl to like this game just because the main character is a little girl. You also shouldn’t dismiss this game as juvenile just based on the style of artwork, or based on the fact that the story is inspired by different fairy tales. Now, let me tell you exactly why Child of Light is a game you shouldn’t ignore.
Starting off, this game is beautiful to watch. It’s a great big watercolor painting that moves. Child of Light uses the UbiArt framework development platform, the same engine used by Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends, which is just as, if not more, fascinating and stunning as it was in the Rayman games. Aurora, the main character, is animated very well. While playing through the game I kept hesitating just to watch the movement of her dress and hair. At any point you could take a screenshot of the game and she would blend in as the same art style, even though she’s a 3D character as opposed to the rest of the world, which is 2D. I only wish more of the characters were animated in this way, at least for some portions of the game. Most of them are 2D illustrations.
Now on to the surprising parts of the game you can’t see for yourself just from screenshots. The lighthearted beauty of the artwork is contrasted by the serious narrative of the story. You meet many characters along the way that diversify the journey and the emotions you experience. I felt quite a bit of sadness while playing this game, enough to shed a tear or two. At times, these emotions even came in the middle of the journey where you would least expect such sorrow. Other times, I was laughing at the dialogue between characters with vibrant personalities. There are also some surprising plot twists that I did not expect from a download-only, no-platinum trophy title. And yet, all of these tones are highlighted by my next favorite thing about Child of Light…
… the poetry! When I first found out the entire game was in rhyming poetry format, I was incredulous that it could be pulled off tactfully and without being annoying. I was very impressed and delighted to experience consistent, non-cheesy poetry for every single word in the game. This even includes the little pop-up speech as you traverse through the world. For example, when you try to unlock any locked doors, Aurora will say ‘It’s locked’, and her companion replies with ‘I’m not shocked’. But it’s not just rhyming poetry. There are collectibles that further the story, called ‘confessions’, that are more like standalone poems, and these use varying forms of poetry (not just rhyming poetry) all the time. The narrative also uses these different forms, but it’s more obvious in the ‘confessions’. There’s even a character that doesn’t rhyme, which is amusing because she’s a jester. I was entertained, and the story was enriched by the constant, polished rhyming. I even started to think in rhymes after a while, which to my face did bring a smile.
Child of Light is a joy to play also due to its simple, yet entertaining, battle system. It surprises you with complexities that are like a fun puzzle, not a chore. It is a turn based system that uses a timeline to keep you on your toes. You can switch between party members with no penalty, so you are free to concoct your own strategies using everyone’s different abilities (which can be upgraded and configured using skill trees and craftable ‘oculi’ character modifiers). If you add the multiplayer feature that allows a second player to control Iniculus the firefly, the battle becomes a little easier than some people may like, but could be fun for casual couch co-op. Iniculus also helps you gather things and sneak up on enemies in the open world, which a friend may enjoy doing if they are already watching you play.
The controls are very smooth as you explore the world outside of battle as well. Child of Light does well with entertaining you between battles. Flying around the surprisingly vast world is fun due to hidden treasure chests, ‘wishes’ (which are very similar to lums from Rayman) and a light smattering of environmental obstacles. There is also a fascinating attention to detail with things in the backgrounds (similar to the recent Rayman games) and in the towns. None of the illustrations are repetitive or stagnant, which possibly adds gameplay hours for those of us who are curious about hidden details discovered by an observant eye.
Sound design is impressive in Child of Light. As expected, the soundtrack is very remarkable and stirring, seamlessly flowing with the exploration and levels of the game. The art becomes an experience due to the soundtrack. I could leave this game on the title screen all day just to listen to that beginning song. The main melody even plays a part in the story. Little sound effects in the rest of the game are tactile and satisfying. They add to the smooth effect of the controls and animations. Overall, it’s as if the pretty watercolor painting of the game is directly translated to pretty sounds with this title’s music and sound design.
I want everyone to play this game! Child of Light is a great example of a modern RPG that bridges gaming with other forms of art. I will be showing this game to any friends and family who are not too familiar with what gaming can be, or who have some uninformed stereotypes about what all video games are like these days. Beautiful painting-style art, moving music, refreshing and simple gameplay, and a multifaceted, emotional storyline make this game well worth the time and money.
Review copy provided by publisher. Review done on PS4 version. Also available on PS3. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.