Tuesday 6 November 2018

Child Of Light (Switch) ★★★★☆

Although I’d heard a lot about Child of Light, I’d actually never picked it up until now. I’ve been using my Nintendo Switch as a device for smaller, more digestible titles for a while. While my better half plays on the PS4, I’ll be chilling out next to him on the sofa playing games like Stardew Valley and Undertale. When I heard that Child of Light had become available on Switch, it seemed like the perfect time to pick it up. The game takes inspiration from classical fairy tales and follows the story of a young girl named Aurora who finds herself caught in a magical world called Lemuria. Long story short, she meets some wacky characters and friends along the way while sabotaging the plot of an evil Stepmother to rescue her Father. She learns a lot about herself along the way, you know the story. It’s charming, we’ve all heard it time and time again, and it was an absolute pleasure to play it. The background and level design visuals use a hand-drawn watercolour style that the whole game looks like a storybook, and it’s so cute I could just eat it up.

As much as I enjoyed playing this game, I couldn’t help feeling that there was something… deliberate about the way that the aesthetic of Child of Light was crafted. Perhaps the cynic in me doesn’t deserve to enjoy the simple pleasures of an artistic fairy tale like this, but at times it really did feel a little ham-fisted. While it’s an impressive feat for the author of all of the game’s dialogue to be written in rhyme, I quickly found this to be pretty cheesy and a little distracting. The game tries its best to carry a pretty melancholy mood throughout the story and the introduction of new characters, and I might have felt a little more invested in these emotions if they hadn’t been sold to me like a CBeebies song. The art style, music and dialogue all come together to really create a piece of video game art that I think every gamer should play. Call me cynical again, but I’d hazard to guess that this game’s beauty and loveliness was the creators’ main goal. At some point in development, someone sat down at the drawing board and thought - ‘let’s make something everyone will say is beautiful.’ before they said ‘let’s make a game’. They really take the time to beat the aesthetic into you, but to their credit, you can’t help but enjoy it.

Trust me, the mechanics of this game are absolutely sound. Flying around the levels feels wonderfully dream-like and elegant, and fits perfectly with the flowing watercolour visuals and the way the wind blows through Aurora’s hair as you move. Being able to manoeuvre around patrolling enemies gives you the illusion of just enough control while not allowing you to avoid combat altogether. The combat will be familiar to those of you that are RPG fans and is crafted around a combination or party members, spells and physical attacks. It’s a hybrid system somewhere between turn-based and real-time (think most of the later Final Fantasy games) that is visualised in a timeline at the bottom of the screen. Character icons move from left to right on the timeline. When a character icon nears the end of the timeline, that character may attack. Attack a character while they’re preparing their attack, and you’ll interrupt it, sending their icon back to the start of the timeline. The system becomes second nature very quickly and adds a delightful extra layer of tactical decision-making. It’s incredibly satisfying to delay your opponent's moves, or successfully avoid them all together. 

The game takes around 12 hours to play in its entirety, and I had fun with every one of them. These days, big RPGs have a tendency to be over-stuffed and spilling with extra features that contribute next to nothing to the overall gameplay. In fact, some open-world RPGs shoehorn in so many mechanics you wonder if they left any ideas on the cutting room floor at all. But in such a tight, neat 12 hours - Child of Light is a lean and fun experience that leaves you with the feeling that every second was well spent. There’s no grinding, and getting lost is impossible - because you’ll want to explore every corner of this cute little world.

Completable in just a handful of sessions, this beautiful and easily digestible game is definitely deserving of your time and will stay with you for a long time after. Especially once you return to enormous, 40+ hour overdesigned sandbox RPGs. Naming no names. 

Jake Turnbull

Child Of Light at CeX

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