Child of Light Review (PS3 Version)
A Fairy Tale's Tale
Have you ever woken up and felt like you were in a dream? Ever felt like you were in a dream but wasn't sure if it was a dream? Child of Light in a way, starts off in a similar fashion. Young lady Aurora awakens in an unfamiliar land called Lemuria, convinced she is in a dream and wants to return to her father's side. For Aurora, however, she cannot return back to where she is from. Instead, an insurmountable task is placed before Aurora: defeat the Black Queen and save Lemuria from her evil clutches. It was a dark and rainy night when I finally started to play Child of Light and the situation felt fitting enough. At the title screen, I was greeted by a haunting melancholy tune and while it didn't make me despair, I certainly wasn't floating on air. With that being said, the art style here is unique unto itself but could be placed among the distinct art styles of Okami, Muramusa Rebirth and a few selected titles.
It has been said Child of Light's art was inspired by Studio Ghibli and many can attest to that studio's finely crafted art. Animations take on a sort of flow, whether it's Aurora's magenta hair or the swaying trees in the background; something is always moving in the environment. Controlling Aurora also has the same flowing sensation and while she feels light, it's not too much to be a burden. It's fine to talk about the aesthetics but Aurora will need more than just her magenta hair to fight against the Black Queen.
Right from the beginning, Aurora meets Igniculus, a blue firefly to help guide her on this journey and is granted fairy wings. These wings help her fly up high or way down low to find hidden treasures, upgrades or solving puzzles. The platforming sections are completely easy and even the puzzles shouldn't give people too much trouble. In fact, my only real complaint is how easy this game truly is but maybe that's its blessing and curse. In addition, Igniculus can be controlled by a second player using another controller, giving Child of Light a cooperative edge.
Aurora's journey requires her to take back the land of Lemuria from the Black Queen but before the inevitable battle, the young lady must do battle with dark creatures. One of the good things about the combat setup is the exclusion of random battles. All enemies can be seen in the environment and can either be ignored or fought. One of the most important rules to follow when playing an RPG is to fight every enemy you see, with the exception of one or two. Leveling up is crucial in Child of Light, so that rule applies here. Depending on the way battles are initiated, determines how they begin. Sneaking up on enemies launches a surprise attack where Aurora and her allies get first strike. On the other hand, if an enemy surprises or attacks Aurora, her and her partner will get ambushed; allowing the enemy to strike first. Simply walking in front of an enemy starts the battle on neutral grounds. Since Aurora was gifted with the ability of flight, I tend to use her wings to my advantage and strike behind my foes. The combat here is quite simple to be honest; though it does have a slight learning curve.
Child of Light's combat is turn-based with a little change up involved. Active Time Battle systems have been included in other RPGs such as Final Fantasy IV and Grandia 2 and it makes an appearance here too. A gauge is shown at the center bottom with 3/4's of the gauge colored blue and a quarter of it shown as red. The blue portion is the waiting period, while the red acts as the short casting time. The participants of battle are shown as little pinpoints, telling the player where they are in terms of making a move. During the wait period, players... well they wait until the party's pinpoints reach the act border. Once there, here is where the options come into play. Just like any RPG, players will have to think about their moves before making it. Can't just keep whacking on the "confirm" to bring victory home. Anyway, the time to act is now and what shall you do? Attacking enemies could mean using a basic melee attack or to do some devastating damage by using magic spells. Not all enemies react to attacks the same and it's up to the player to find the weaknesses and exploit them.
For example, using a fire spell against dark woodland creatures would be more effective than using, let's say, water or lightning. In addition to finding weak spots, interrupting an enemy is crucial to the heart of battle. To interrupt, merely attack an enemy while they are in the casting state. This sets them back onto the wait period but be warned: Aurora and her allies can also be interrupted if not careful. To avoid being interrupted, defending is the best bet here. Sure, defending sends the character's wait time back but allows said character to act twice as fast in return. There is a rhythm to be found in each fight; the fun part is finding out what kind of rhythm it is.
Do you remember Igniculus, our little firefly friend? Well, hopefully so because he has more of an importance in battle than navigating environments. By utilizing Igniculus, players can actually heal Aurora and friends without having to resort to items first. How? By simply hovering over the selecting party member, Igniculus can shine its healing light onto the one who needs it. That shining light can also be used on foes but it doesn't heal them. Instead, the blinding shine of holy light actually slows the creatures down on the gauge. By using Igniculus in a tactical manner and effectively interrupting, enemies could potentially never have a chance to act in combat! Allies can be switched on the fly in combat and figuring out who is most effective helps in a big way. Finn is great for when spells are useful and Rubella can heal status ailments. Sticking with just one ally throughout the entire game is possible but could be a bit challenging.
After each battle, experience is giving to all of the characters, whether or not they participated in said battle. Once enough experience is gained, Aurora and her allies level up and receive one skill point each. This skill point is used for upgrading powers and abilities, in addition to increasing stats like stronger defense or adding more probability to the chance of evading attacks. The more you fight, the stronger your party becomes and making your way to the end of the game should be easy. Only real trouble I had was some boss fights but never have I seen the game over screen. Child of Light is one of the easier RPGs I've had the pleasure of playing and while I don't normally complain when it comes to difficulty, I wish more of a challenge was presented throughout Aurora's adventure. For me, it was too easy for me to take advantage of the combat mechanics. Difficulty aside, I can't say much of anything negative about Child of Light. I thought only having Aurora and one other ally on the field at the same time to be too slow but with the nature of the difficult, having a three or four person team would have made this game beyond cakewalk material.
So at the end of the day, what exactly does Child of Light offer? A fantasy tale, poetic dialogue, beautiful artwork and a combat system that's easy to grasp yet offers satisfying victories. Overall, finishing this journey can be done anywhere between the 10-20 hour mark; depending on how much time is spent exploring or enjoying all Lemuria has to offer. In truth, this isn't the type of game I expected from Ubisoft but I'm glad it happened.
+Simple and engaging combat
+Artwork is a real masterpiece
+An interesting fairy tale coming of age story
+Soundtrack is hauntingly beautiful
-Unfortunately, the game is far too easy.
I honestly feel like I could recommend Child of Light to just about anyone. It's a fantastic game to own and will surely be on extraordinary game lists by the end of the year. It still runs for $15 but that's a small price to pay here. I hope to see more creative IPs come out of Ubisoft in the future because I certainly found Child of Light to be a charming delight. There are demos out across all platforms, so give Aurora a chance and see if she can't make you dance!