Child of Light is about a little girl from Austria who falls into a coma, and in her dreams finds that the sun, moon, and stars have been stolen from the world. In order to make her way back to the real world, where her father is slowly dying from the heartbreak of losing his daughter, she must return all sources of light to this dream world. It’s very much like a fairytale.
The girl wields light-based attacks, literally has to bring the light back into the world, and is named ‘Aurora’ after nature’s Pink Floyd lightshow. It’s like Ubisoft came up with the game’s name and worked the rest around it.
The art in Child of Light is one of the main attractions – it’s beautiful to look at, and some of the physics make it even more so. The way the characters’ hair floats about them, and the way the environment moves – this game is at times like a series of watercolour paintings brought to life.
Although it resembles one, Child of Light is not a platformer in the true sense, especially seeing as you hardly have to jump up or down any platforms. You can just fly instead. Really, the game is more of a sidescrolling JRPG, except for the minor detail of it being made in Canada.
The influence of old-school JRPGs like Final Fantasy VII become apparent when you enter into combat. Rather than shooting a creature or jumping on its head while still sidescrolling, a separate battlefield is loaded. Here, you attack using an active time battle system, with each participant’s speed determining the turn order.
Once your character is ready to attack, you need to choose what kind of attack to use. Some attacks take longer to cast than others, and if an enemy manages to cast its spell and hit your character first, it interrupts their cast and they lose their attack for a turn. Timing is everything.
As you play through the game, extra characters are unlocked whose abilities differ from Aurora’s. They might have abilities that stop you from being interrupted when attacked, or classic RPG spells such as Haste (sorry, I mean “Quicken”) or Slow (“Lull”). Then you’ve got your elemental mage, your tank, your healer, and so on.
Only have two of these characters can be out and fighting at any one time though, which frequently creates interesting dilemmas. Do you need someone who can cast defensive spells, or a healer? How do you choose a magical attacker when you don’t know which elements the enemy is weak to? While switching between characters in-battle is easy, making the wrong choice can still be deadly.
There’s one more character, too – a little blue firefly called Igniculus, who has all kinds of tricks up his sleeve. He can heal, slow down enemies, and unlock bits and pieces in the environment. He’s a very useful little guy.
The levelling system and accompanying skill trees are also reminiscent of every RPG you’ve ever played. You level up, your stats get raised, and you get to choose a new ability or bonus from the skill tree.
Fortunately, all your characters level up evenly regardless of whether you’re using them in combat, so if you suddenly realise you need your bowman and you haven’t been using him regularly, he should still be good to go.
While Child of Light’s combat did get a tad repetitive toward the end of the 10-hour game, especially as almost every boss fight was remarkably similar to the last, the blending of the two genres kept me interested and playing. It’s not seamless, as the flow of the sidescroller sometimes jarred when I was unexpectedly pulled into combat, but it’s still loads of fun.
If you really like JRPGs, then I’d absolutely recommend you give Child of Light a try for its creative and slick integration of RPG mechanics. If you’re more interested in the sidescrolling aspect, you can probably pass on this one.