Game Review: Child of Light

K. Montinola (The Philippine Star) - November 6, 2014 - 11:08am

Game: Child of Light (Ubisoft)

Playable: PC, PlayStation 3, Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One

With the advent of some mega releases in gaming (if you are like me and you are already dreading the holiday shopping, and you need gift ideas for that Nintendo junkie in your life, Super Smash Bros. Universe is coming out for the Wii U at the end of this month. Godspeed), it’s almost impossible to squeeze in some time and energy for littler games. Child of Light floated up in my radar earlier this year, but I didn’t get a chance to touch it until recently.

Child of Light follows the lost daughter of an Austrian Duke (in 1895, we are told), called Aurora. The poor girl wakes up on an altar in a magical world called Lemuria. What starts out as a quest to return home to her father becomes a mission to recover the sun, moon, and stars of the land, a curse brought about by the evil Queen Umbra.

Against some wonderful art and moody music, the story converts many fairy-tale qualities into a very natural coming-of-age tale. Lemuria is a beautifully imagined world, with a great variety of peoples, creatures and beings. Aurora bravely faces them all, despite fears and misgivings. Her heroic journey very prettily rendered, with valuable themes of friendship, inner strength and growing into your destiny.

Some of the storytelling does suffer in the details. The forced rhyming of the dialogue would have been charming in small doses, but the use of it in every piece of written word felt like a compulsion. And I’ll say it more clearly: they’re not good rhymes. The gameplay sometimes makes encountering new characters abrupt and random, and the flow of the side quests is not exactly full proof. Sometimes you encounter new characters as abruptly as you do in a children’s storybook, and sometimes you can miss them completely.

Gameplay-wise, Child of Light plays it quite safe. The RPG adventure is a side-scrolling map, with some mild puzzle work. The battle system is something like Final Fantasy, with time-based turns and fixed combat platforms. It’s committed to lots of classic RPG elements. There’s leveling up and stats, a nice skill tree for each party member, and a simple element system that is easy enough to pick up. There’s also gem crafting, à la Diablo, where certain facets will have certain effects on your abilities.

One interesting addition is the playability of the main companion character Igniculus the “firefly” (he resembles a wisp or a light spirit of some kind). In the spectrum of multiplayer gaming, control of Igniculus is minor; you can shine his light on monsters to blind them, slow them down during battle and open certain chests. Some dungeons will also have switches only he can tap (making things more difficult for a single player). It’s a lot like the two-player option in the Wii’s Super Mario Galaxy, though Player 2 had even less to do there.

The dynamic means the kind of multiplayer experience you could have is different, but not in a bad way. It works if you wanted to play with someone who was more interested in the story or in playing with you specifically, like, say, your little sibling or cousin or own kid. I don’t personally know many geek parents yet, but if there are any gamers out there looking for an activity to play with their children, this is not a bad bet.

Child of Light doesn’t quite push the boundary of video games much, be it in story or in gameplay. But it’s an enjoyable piece of work, with beautiful visuals, accessible to more casual gamers in a way other RPG games simply aren’t.  It’s not long, not expensive, good quality and companionable. So at the end of the day, if gaming is an investment of time where the return is enjoyment: this one makes me glad I took the time to play.

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