Developer: Ubisoft Montreal | Year: 2014 | List Price: $14.99 | Buy from Amazon
Child of Light is a game that defies expectations. Developed by Ubisoft Montréal, one would expect a sweeping world and realistic graphics, but Child of Light opts instead for a watercolour, indie-esque feel. Also, it contains many staples of classic JRPGs even though it was produced in Québec. Child of Light is a special game, and playing through its roughly 12-hour main story was an experience unlike that of any other game I’ve tried before. It certainly is, to my knowledge at least, the only QRPG to have ever existed!
The first thing you’ll notice about Child of Light is just how beautiful its world is. The watercoloured backdrops and ambient, nature-y sounds really accentuate the fairytale theme the game evokes. Child of Light tells the story of Aurora, a young Austrian princess who has died and gone to the magical world of Lemuria. Along her quest to go back to her world and reunite herself with her father, she has to deal with the creatures of Lemuria, united under a sinister evil. Already the story deals with tropes and clichés from the likes of folktales and Grimm stories, but what makes it work is how unabashed Child of Light is about its influences. In fact, all the dialogue in the game is written in rhyme, giving it an almost Shakespearean feel. Personally, I liked the rhyming, although the writers did not seem to change the vocabulary to match the time period, and at times the rhyming felt a bit forced. Finally, the sound is superb, with eerie ambient noises and haunting themes. I always like when certain themes in a game take on meaning within the context of the story, and that certainly becomes true of some of Child of Light’s leitmotifs.
The gameplay takes you between a 2D world and a turn-based RPG battlefield. In the overworld, you’re encouraged to explore and solve simple puzzles to collect combat items. Encounters aren’t random; rather, enemies appear on screen and you’ll have to make contact with them to initiate battle, à la Paper Mario and Persona. Battle is really where Child of Light shines. Similarly to Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger, battles aren’t completely turn-based. But where those games use a ATB gauge for each player that determines when they can move, Child of Light features a timeline, shown on the bottom of the screen, that all combatants share. They’ll move at different rates depending on their speed stats, but once they reach a point about 4/5 up the timeline, they can cast an attack. From there until the end of the timeline, should anyone overtake them and target them before they reach the end, the move will be interrupted and they’ll be sent backwards. It seems complicated at first, but it’s rather intuitive and you’ll have fun devising ways to interrupt your enemies.
All in all, Child of Light’s beauty is in its simplicity, and though it’s short for an RPG, it doesn’t overstay its welcome, and that’s a breath of fresh air in the genre.
Design: 9/10: Child of Light’s story may be cliché now and then, but that doesn’t keep it from being effective. The overall atmosphere is also extremely well done, with colourful characters and clever dialogue.
Visuals: 10/10: The painterly backgrounds and hand drawn aesthetics work well to establish the whimsical themes of the game. You won’t soon tire of exploring the jaw-dropping environments. The characters and monsters are cartoony, but this only adds to their charm.
Sound: 9/10: The themes range from dramatic to eerie and haunting, but are always a pleasure to listen to. The ambient sounds are also well-done and really immerse you into the world. Apart from a narrator at key points in the story, there isn’t any voice-acting, but I never felt like the game needed it.
Gameplay: 9/10: Child of Light’s gameplay is well thought out and really keeps you on your toes. In fact, though the game isn’t very difficult, it can often still be frustrating as you watch your characters chase enemies on the timeline. The pace is quite fast, and there was never a battle in which I didn’t have at least one character level up. If there’s a major complaint, however, it’s that the skill system is a bit too involved, as you’ll have to allot relatively unimportant skills and stat upgrades to your fighters each and every time they level up.
Value: 9/10: At only 12-15 hours in length, Child of Light isn’t quite in the league of the meaty JRPGs of yore. That said, it only costs $15, and the short playtime has the added effect of never getting tiring. Child of Light really is a no-brainer for anyone looking for a good story-based RPG with engaging combat.
Total: 46/50 (A-)
List Price: $14.99 | Buy from Amazon
Have you played Child of Light? What did you think? Tell us in the comments!
I’ve been playing lots of Vita recently, as well as discovering some PC gems from yesteryear like Bioshock and Half Life 2. I’m playing with a Dualshock 4 so I don’t have to deal with a mouse and keyboard! I might do a review on that next, otherwise look forward to another video game review. I just downloaded Suikoden II from the PSN today and am going to see what all the hype is about.
Also, Game of the Year season is fast approaching! We’ll be announcing the contenders in a couple weeks before finally announcing the winner of the very first Kantaloupe Game of the Year award around New Year’s.