After the enjoyable time I had with the main Rayman-titles, I wanted to have an excuse to talk about two other games. Luckily: both of them also used the UbiArt engine, made popular through Rayman Origins, Rayman Legends and a bunch of Rayman-titles for Android and iOS-devices. Child of Light caught my eye immediately when I saw that the presentation used the UbiArt engine with an aquarell approach, and that it was an RPG inspired by Grandia’s time-based system. I could not wait to give it a shot, but I had to for a month since I had exams to pass. Was it worth it the wait?
An adorable fairytale
After a poetic introduction, we find our heroine Aurora laying in bed, with her skin cold as ice and everybody believes her to be dead. She wakes up on an altar in a mystical land called Lemuria, where she meets up with a firefly named Igniculus. He tells Aurora about the Lady of the Forest, which needs to be saved. When they free the Lady of the Forest, Aurora is told of the history of Lemuria, which was once ruled by the Queen of Light. However, she vanished and the Queen of Dark, Umbra, took over and sent her daughters to steal Lemuria’s light: the sun, the stars, and the moon. The queen also has a mirror that links Lemuria to Aurora’s world. Tasked with great responsibility and a wish to get home, Aurora sets out on a quest to find the sun, stars, and the moon.
This is a traditional fairytale, with likeable characters to meet, a gorgeous and magical world to traverse through, and to top it all of: the entire tale is told in rhyme. The tale is an adorable and an atmospheric one, almost like an old Disney-movie. However, due to this, the plot is also predictable and while the story is building upon traditional settings, a bit more originality would have been nice. The cast of characters are interesting and all have their stories to tell, and even build connections to each other with minor dialogues that are a joy to read. Some do have minor reasons to join this caravan and maybe even not be connected to the plot that well, but the build-up in character-relationships helps. There are also “confessions” to be found for some more flavor-texts that elaborate more on how the creatures of this world react to the events that are going on. With all of this: Child of Light shows that it is not always what you tell that is important, but also: how you tell it.
Story Score: 8.5/10
Grandia mixed with side-scrolling
The whole game is presented in a 2D-sidescrolling format, with areas to traverse through and enemies to fight. The worlds are easily recognizable and it is never a problem to find out where you are and where you are supposed to go to, especially thanks to a useful map. The areas are varied making you do something a bit different each time. One area is basically a giant tree with thorns to avoid, while another has winds to fight through in a small maze, giving all places a personality through level-design. You will early on gain the ability to fly, which might seem like something to overpower you, but thankfully: the areas are designed around this concept, with caves being more cramped with traps and light puzzles, and more open areas giving the possibility to choose battles and explore more freely. Unlike other J-RPGS, there are no merchants, inns or even gold to speak of. The game drives on searching out the areas, with plenty of hidden chests, sidequests and collectables to find making exploration always rewarding. Some will require the help of Igniculus, who will be our help for solving puzzles, lightning up areas, open certain treasures or even acquire planted wishes that will restore mana and health to our characters.
Approaching an enemy will initiate a combat-scene, which should be familiar to any J-RPG fan, and just like Grandia you can get a surprise-attack on them if you approach a creature from behind and vice-versa. The combat is inspired by Grandia, as mentioned before, which I love. To elaborate more: your playable characters and enemies are displayed on a bar at the bottom of the screen showcasing when each of you can attack. When the wait is over, you choose whether to attack, defend or use skills, magic or items. Each takes a certain time to use on the “cast” meter, and if you attack someone before their casting-time is over you can cancel their attack, making them have to wait for a while until they can attack again. This can also happen to you, making defense an important part of your strategy, due to defense being activated instantly and how quickly you can try to attack again. All battles feels intense and dangerous, even if there are only 2 of your heroes and a maximum of 3 enemies on screen. You can also switch out character if needed, making the battles open for more strategies. Helping out, is our small drop Igniculus. He can slow down enemies, heal our playable characters or pick up wishes at times for some health or mana. He has, however, a bar that prevents him from using it for too long, and the pickups do barely anything, making him a good addition and not overpowered. He can also be controlled by a second-player, which is nice.
Besides increasing stats, leveling up will also give each party-member a skill-point that can be used in their skill-tree. Each tree has 3-branches with both active and passive skills, making it possible to personalize a bit with how you want to tackle the adventure and all of them feel useful. Besides leveling up, there are gems or “Oculi” as the game calls them. These can be crafted into different gems by combining 2 or 3 more, and attached to attack, defense or support slots, making them do different things. For example, a red gem can give our party member a fire-attack if set on attack, or more HP if put on support.
The combat and leveling up is a joy and while you will have to fight to level up, grinding is kept to a minimum. As long as you are strategic and keep your head cool, the challenge should be a decent one, and with enemies being easy to avoid and fast-travel unlocked early on, you always feel a progression throughout the journey. It does also feature an autosave, which will save after you pretty much do anything from getting an item to finishing a battle.
With a 10-12 hour journey, Child of Light has a good length before you finish the game. With a great combat-system, fun customization to characters, great level-designs and exploration, there is a lot to do in this RPG and all of it feels solid, making it a journey that never feels dull. It might not be innovative in every area, but enough to be recognizable and enjoyable.
Gameplay Score: 9/10
Watercolors that flows
The art is incredible. Using aquarell to give the world much better motion was a good move, since everything, while still using the “puppet-animation” found in games such as Rayman Origin and Legends, is animated even better with elements such as Aurora’s hair floating in the wind, or seeing friends and foe struggling due to low health. The lightning and attention to detail in areas is fantastic with diverse areas to visit such as a cursed village filled with crows and mysterious forests to name a few. What is also great, is how cohesive the worlds feel by changing parts of the areas subtly until reaching a whole new area, and with the detailed creatures and buildings in the backgrounds, it all makes the world feel alive, real and mysterious. The characters and enemies are well designed and imaginative, somewhat familiar yet still original. Even the character-portraits for when they talk are expressive, giving us characters that are easy to feel for.
With piano and orchestral instruments taking the spotlight, the music is fantastic. The soundtrack takes on a more calm and mystical tone, with clear tones of piano to make all the music-pieces atmospheric and memorable, while intense in the more action-heavy scenarios. Cœur de pirate is behind this soundtrack and being originally an indie-pop singer and songwriter, it is impressive how she took up making music that is a bit different from what she is known for and still makes it so beautiful.
Presentation Score: 10/10
Wanna pick up this tale again?
There are enjoyable sidequest to tackle and the hidden confessions are also a good reason to go back and search every nook and cranny, with even the ability to get a map showing where they are vaguely located. There is also a new game+, where you start with powers you had at the end of the game, and must fight against harder enemies. It is more challenging, but rather because of all the options of attacks you have at that point rather than anything else. Playing the game one more time on Hard-mode is also welcoming and being 10-12 hours long, makes the adventure easy to take on one more time.
Extra Score: 8.5/10
Child of Light is not just a love-letter, but a poem to both fans of, and those that aren’t into J-RPGs to begin with. It knows how to keep grinding to a minimum, has a great combat-system, interesting worlds to explore, sidequests and collectables to find and is gorgeous both visually and musically. It comes easily recommended.
As a side-note: there are some DLCs that are available for many platforms, but not the Wii U (although there is only one that comes recommended and honestly: is so small that it should have been a part of the game). The Wii-U and PS-Vita have the ability to use the touchpad to control Igniculus, and the PC-version does the same with the mouse.