It's hard to ignore just how beautiful Child Of Light is. For the first few minutes of the game I just sat there, gawking at the gorgeous watercolour-like landscapes, oblivious to the fact that there were in fact some neat ideas strewn amongst the pretty visuals. It is, after all, a marriage of two disparate genres: the 2D platformer, and the turn-based RPG. They've come together in the past with the likes of the Paper Mario series, but Child Of Light takes a slightly different approach.
Child Of Light simplifies and condenses many classic RPG mechanics to fit its shorter running time. Experience points, magic points, skill trees, weapon upgrades, buffs, spells and turn-based battles are all there, but are far less complex than in your average RPG. In the few hours I played the game, I'd already worked my way up to nearly level 20, and unlocked quite a few blocks on my character's skill tree.
Weapon upgrades came in the form of gems called Oculi that I recovered from chests during my adventure, which slotted into weapons for different kinds of buffs. Some gave my character more strength, others better magic defense, while another added elemental buffs like fire and water to attacks. It's a simple system--at least when compared to the complexity that the likes of some of the Final Fantasy series has reached over the years--but that doesn't necessarily make it a bad one.
I found Child Of Light's rewards came not from tweaking an endless array of menu options, but from the combat itself. There battles relied less on canny equipment choices and more on deft timing. Essentially, it was all about the balance between executing a defense command and launching an attack. A bar at the bottom of the screen showed when the characters (including enemies) were waiting to attack, and when they were actively casting.
If I launched an attack while an enemy was casting one of theirs, it would interrupt it and send them to the back of wait bar. The reverse was true too, so if I attacked just as the enemy was getting to the end of a casting period, I'd have my attack nullified. Simple enough, but it got quite tactical as I timed my defense moves to the rhythm of the opposition's attacks, and began using slow to ensure my attacks were perfectly timed, while the enemy used haste to speed up their time to casting.
It was a fun, tactical system, although once I'd got to grips with it, the battles themselves weren't particularly challenging. The potential is certainly there for it to come into its own during more difficult encounters, and I've got high hopes for it doing so later in the game. Even if it doesn't though, Child Of Light's aesthetic qualities go a long way towards picking up the slack. A captivating soundtrack accompanied the beautiful visuals, while the cast of cheeky fireflies, melancholy jesters, and grumpy gnomes and their rhyming dialogue were utterly charming.
That's not to mention the puzzle-filled platforming elements of the game, and the fairy wings my character was gifted with that let me gracefully flutter through the dreamy watercolor landscapes. Child Of Light is a game that's filled with charm and joyfulness. No matter how much I pondered about it having a deeper set of RPG mechanics, or battles with a more challenging set of opponents, I couldn't help but be utterly smitten by it. And if that happened after just a few hours, lord knows what a mushy mess I'll be when I get my hand on the finished game. Can't wait.