In retrospective Ubisoft is not the type of studio to produce two-dimensional pieces of art. Rayman Origins and Legends would love to disagree with that statement, but when you first lay your eyes on Child of Light it’s something completely different. Something that’s completely out of the Ubisoft norm. It’s perhaps a shining light of what this industry, surrounded by flying bullets and open worlds, need.
The first thing that will strike you is the distinctive visual appeal. It’s as if some fairy took her wand and water-painted the landscapes. The blurred blops of water paint creates a unique setting that sets this apart from any other game I’ve ever seen. The closest I’ve seen to this is perhaps The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, but it’s still not quite the same. The art style lends itself very well to the genre Child of Light finds itself in. It’s a mixture of JRPG, platforming and adventure with the centre of attention being focussed on Aurora, the daughter of the dutches and duke of 1895 Austria.
Our little heroine, still a child (of light I’d let you know), has grown up sheltered by her father, since her mother’s untimely death. She somehow contracts a physical ailment that has her falling asleep. Upon waking up her world has changed. The sun, moon and stars have been nicked by her, now step mother, the Dark Queen – Umbra. This is where Aurora’s adventure begins, as she makes her way through treacherous territories to reunite with her father. She can walk, run, jump and, later on, fly with her own pair of fairy wings. It’s also early on, at this stage, that’s she’s introduced to her new sidekick – Igniculus.
Presented in a circular glow, Igniculus comes with his own set of very versatile abilities. If Aurora is in or out of battle, which activates when touching a foe, a press and hold of the ZL button will see him restoring her or any of her companions health bars, as long as he’s within reach. Follow similar procedures when Igniculus is near foes in battle and he’ll slow them down. There’s a very important reason for all this ‘healing’ and ‘slowing down’ going on. When in battle it follows a classic Active-Time Battle System JRPG style of combat. Turns are based off a timeline. Whenever a member reaches the beginning of the ‘cast’ section, about three quarters down the timeline, you’re tasked with an important decision. Do you attack, defend, use potions, change party members around (which can be changed as you please in real-time, even if a member has died) or heal?
What makes that decision so important is that you’re racing towards the end of the timeline so that you can cast your magic or physical attack first. Some attacks are slower than others as it requires more MP when used, while other cast times are shorter. Here’s the thing – strike your opponent, while it’s also in the ‘cast section’, and you’ll interrupt their move and completely cancel it altogether, which in return moves it back to nearly the start of the timeline. At the same time you’re watching out that this does not happen to you or any of your companions. It’s in this timeline that Igniculus’ move, to slow down opponents, becomes an invaluable commodity. There’s much more strategy that comes to play in these battles.
As with most JRPG’s there’s the component of elemental attacks. Dark versus light, fire versus water, lightning versus water and so forth. In Child of Light you’re awarded Oculi. Oculi boosts attributes of your party members and will grant them with special elemental and other (such as strength, HP and MP) abilities. Hit the + button and enter the Oculi menu. Here you can combine Oculi to create stronger abilities for your party, which also brings a sense of versatility to the overall progress of her journey. In the pause member you also get the chance to improve the various skills of your party. You can improve your defense, magic, magic defense, speed, critical hit and dodge abilities, which never costs anything more than one skill point. A bit simple if you ask me, but I guess it works for Child of Light.
Perhaps the biggest problem for me with Child of Light was that I found it a little too easy. In my 14-hour journey I died only once, and that was purely because of my own stupidity by not watching my health bar. Something else that irked me personally was the lack of Gamepad functions. Yes, I know it’s a multiplatform game, but using the touchpad to heal your party member, with your hand covering up the rest of the screen, did not work out all that well. Thankfully the second-screen option on the Gamepad works just fine. In fact, I found myself playing the game on the Gamepad more often than not.
Child of Light is a beautiful experience. One I’d highly recommend, especially if you have an understanding when it comes to Active-Time Battle Systems. Searching for treasure chests, filled with Oculi or potions, never gets old and there are one or two basic puzzles that helps with the pacing of the game. There’s also a specific plot twist that had my emotions tied up in a knot. It does have its moments. In this case the light does not shine as bright as I might have hoped, but it’s by no means dim.