Child of Light is absolutely stunning to look at and listen to.
The characters, the background, all is made in a waterpaint-esque way, drawings that hearken to children’s books and imagination. You are Aurora, a princess with red hair that flows behind her, leaving stains on the sky as she goes, a crown perched on her head. Igniculous, her firefly companions, follows in her wake, collecting wishes from flowers that let him shine so brightly he can scare back dark creatures that would attack. Her companions will come to include a jester looking for her brother, Aurora’s sister, and a down on his luck, older than he looks gnome wizard seeking redemption.
It’s dreamy, whimsical artwork is accompanied by a dreamy, whimsical soundtrack that I want to listen to for hours on end. The battle theme makes my heart race every time; your heart soars with the flying music. I don’t think I’ve had such a strong visceral reaction to a game soundtrack since I played Thomas Was Alone. If Child of Light isn’t your type of game, I still highly suggest you pick up the soundtrack.
All of these whimsical, dreamy touches are appropriate because the story is a fairy tale, telling the tale of Princess Aurora, she with the flaming red hair, and her journey through Lemuria to bring back the sun, moon, and stars, and to return to her father. It’s so goddamn pretty to look at and listen to that I’ll delay winning battles just to watch and listen some more. It’s aesthetically pleasing to the extreme and the story isn’t shabby either – Aurora’s got a temper and snubs being called a princess. She’s hellbent on getting back to her kingdom and her family. Her friends have their own stories and their own goals to achieve. From what I’ve seen, the Queen of the Night, who captured the celestial bodies and spirited Aurora away from her home, is shaping up to be an interesting character with her own mysterious reasons for her sins.
Combat is turn based, which is not something I normally love in any game. However, as characters gain speed boosts throughout battle, there is a visual representation of how speedy they are on the screen, with your marker surging past enemies’ markers as you boost past them. There’s also a gem crafting system, which lets you craft larger gems that drop from enemies and appear in random chests throughout the world. Each crafted gem can be slotted into a weapon to increase speed or add more damage to a sword or a shield. I’m not a big crafting person, but the system is very easy to understand and gems seem to be plentiful, so I never feel like I’m raging against an invisible, non-gem producing wall that wants me to fail.
What grates at me right now is the text. Like a fairy tale, everyone speaks in rhyme. And by God, is it not one of the most annoying things I’ve ever seen in a video game. Some of the rhymes are enchanting, especially near the beginning. But as the story progresses, the rhymes keep getting cheesier and cheesier. Lines fall flat again and again as more and more rhymes are shoved down your throat. It’s a chore to get through. I appreciate what the creators wanted to do with the game, to stay in line with the fairy tale the game is telling, but it starts feeling tedious and uninspired quick.
Still, the story that Child of Light is telling feels fresh and beautiful. If you can get past the cheesy lines, it’s worth a play.
I think that last single player game I played was Jazzpunk, which I only put about an hour into before my attention waned. The last single player game I put any real time into was Gone Home, which was a magical experience for me. Child of Light feels almost like that in a way – I’m invested in Aurora’s story, just like I was invested in Sam’s story in Gone Home. After sinking hundreds of hours into multiplayer games since i finished Gone Home, it’s invigorating to find a good game that can still hold my attention.
On a more personal note, I never thought I’d be a keyboard and mouse player. I’m using a controller for Child of Light, and goddamn, do you lose your muscle memory for a controller after not using one for awhile. Past Kim would be shocked and appalled at how far I’ve fallen.