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Review

Child of Light Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed:
  • XONE
  • PS3
Robert Handlery on Google+

Child no more.

There are times I want to be sad, when I'd rather be all alone, quietly thinking about my life, or hugging a loved one to forget about the day's trouble. Child of Light embraces that melancholy beautifully and its various elements cultivate a doleful mood. From the overgrown foliage threatening to overtake the neglected environments to the tired inhabitants wasting away their days, there's a somber tone that permeates this storybook adventure. I was struck by that desperation in the whimsical poetry of the dialogue; conversations are constructed with overtly meticulous rhymes that betray the bewilderment building below the surface. And the docile piano melody made my heart all the heavier. Child of Light is a lovely adventure, a journey as remarkable as it is uncommon, that left me grappling with my own sadness.

I wasn't so accepting of Child of Light at first. The delicate artistic style is so immediately inviting that I had imagined a world opening before me that I would want to exist in. That's because I had mistaken color for happiness. Child of Light is not about fleeting joy, and so, when the sorrowful tone endured as I ventured on, I struggled to find my bearings. I waited for a lightheartedness that never arrived, so I fought against the energy that Child of Light was putting forth. But as I pushed deeper inside of this dreamlike world, I stopped resisting and opened up to the game. Child of Light is difficult in ways that I hadn't expected, and is incredibly effective if you allow it to work its magic.

It's in the earliest moments that the game reveals its true nature. A story told through stained-glass imagery shows the protagonist Aurora's inseparable relationship with her father, and tells of how their bond was torn asunder. One night, she rested her head upon a pillow, and never awakened when a new day dawned. Her father, the once proud king, was beside himself with grief, choosing to spend his days awash in tears rather than care for his kingdom and the wants of his populace. He was a lost man. Lost, too, was Aurora, who awakened not in her own bed, but in a place she did not recognize. It's a story about fear and betrayal, hopelessness and fortitude, in which every citizen you meet seeks shelter in Aurora's loving arms. Her plight to fight for both her own freedom and her companions' is one we've seen before, though that doesn't detract from the feelings it conjures.

Child of Light is a lovely adventure, a journey as remarkable as it is uncommon, that left me grappling with my own sadness.

Aurora joins up with a jester who has lost touch with her brother, a rodent who craves monetary wealth, and a gnome whose people have been cursed with an avian disease. But it's a firefly who proves to be the steadiest friend. Igniculus floats alongside you as you explore the creaking trees and abandoned homes you drift past on your way to free this land from the misery that it's drowning in. Always with advice on his lips, he can also light the passageway through dark caves and collect treasure that your human hands can't wrest open.

Spiders are cast as villains, as they should be.

When Aurora sets out into this foreign world--barefoot, weaponless, and utterly alone--she clambers upon rocky outcrops as she winds her way through labyrinthine caverns. Slowly but determinedly, Aurora uses ingenuity to scavenge for scraps of treasure, and I felt at one with the environment as I charted a course onward. After reaching her first destination, Aurora was imbued with flight, and the tactile pleasure of forging unknown paths vanished. Once airborne, you can no longer run and jump as you once could, instead floating dreamily through air thick with fog and rain. The kinetic freedom of flight rises and quickly falls away as you continually find your path barred. Thorns rein you in, waterfalls and gales push you away, and those restrictions echo the themes of imprisonment. You're not free; you're trapped and scared and desperate to return home, and those aerial barriers further those feelings.

Enjoy flight when you can. There are treasure chests and hidden passages for those with an inquisitive disposition, and when you're able to break free from the chains corralling you in place, the landscape is too beautiful to not admire. But such appreciation is fleeting. There are enemies lurking--creatures that should have no qualms about your presence cut you down if you drift too close to them. They patrol in the open, marching from side to side along high plateaus or hovering menacingly in dark caverns. You can avoid them if you wish--fly down another path or wait until they turn their backs on you--but Aurora is not one to walk away from a confrontation. She wields a sword almost too heavy for her to carry, and has her heart set only on her freedom, so she doesn't run away from the monsters that stand before her. She longs to fight, relishes in it, and her friends readily join her, eager to damage the foul beasts who roam about their home.

It's a story about fear and betrayal, hopelessness and fortitude, in which every citizen you meet seeks shelter in Aurora's loving arms.

It's in the combat that the sadness that permeates the rest of Child of Light is momentarily halted. The music loses its solemnity as it suddenly becomes fierce, and the characters forget their aching problems for a moment while they focus on the threats that stand before them. Wolves and boars growl their displeasure, flaming birds and ethereal horses bar your path, and you stare them down like only a true warrior can. Although your party balloons as you trudge deeper into this desperate land, only two can fight at one time, while the others swap in when their fists are needed and back out once their energy is spent. It's a frenetic system in which you're continually juggling your party, tapping a healer when you need a boost, matching elemental attacks against your shifty opponents, and finding ways for everyone to contribute.

The energy of these encounters carries a fast-paced excitement that's lacking from the rest of the adventure. That's not to downplay how affecting the quiet moments are, but rather to show how sharp the contrast is. When you're fighting, you're so invested in an immediate threat that you're no longer saddened by the dire world around you. And it's a freeing feeling that exists only because of how different it is from the rest of the adventure. Part of that rush comes from how smartly time is used. Though fights play out in a turn-based manner, you and your opponents race to perform attacks as quickly as you can. Cast haste to get a boost, or hover Igniculus over an enemy to slow it down. Interrupt an attack, and you can infuriate an enemy, cause it to retaliate with anger or cower from frustration. If you're inattentive, your hard work can blow up in your face, so you have to act with exactitude and think on your toes.

The night is dark and full of terrors.

The challenge of these encounters is expertly balanced. Against tougher foes, I always felt out of my element. Would this be the fight where I finally met my end? I would scrape and claw, desperately casting spells while fending off the unceasing threat. My attacks would be interrupted, my characters infected by curses, and yet I pressed on. I would drown enemies in water, blind them with sunlight, and never relent for even a second. I never did lose a battle. Child of Light did a wonderful job of pushing me hard, forcing me to fight with speed and precision, without ever becoming overwhelming. When I won, I would pause for a few moments to take in what I had accomplished. It's a great feeling to come out on top. And though I would invariably level up from such victories, I wasn't drawn to better stats or new powers. It was winning that was infectious. It was embracing the moments of respite amid a sea of sorrow and despair.

Child of Light is a remarkable adventure. I wouldn't have thought that was true during the first couple of hours given that my expectations of what kind of game this was shattered when reality showed its face. But once I accepted the sadness that is so intertwined with every element, I grew so much closer to Child of Light. It's easy to heap praise on the combat because it's so interesting and engaging, and it's certainly a high point in this adventure. That's not what makes Child of Light stand out, though. Rather, it's how confident it is in its own feelings of woe. There are so few games willing to explore that dull ache that I became mesmerized by Aurora's journey, even when I needed to step away from her plight while I regained my composure. Child of Light is a wonderfully realized, somber adventure, and I couldn't be happier that such a game exists.

The Good
Somber tone is wonderful in its sadness
Beautiful score perfectly complements the action
Sharp combat demands quick thinking and acting
Lovely artistic design continually amazes
The Bad
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Child of Light

About the Author

Tom was touched by the somber tone of Child of Light and wishes more games would explore this untapped feeling. He spent more than 15 hours within this world, and is eager to revisit it.

Discussion

549 comments
shindark
shindark

How this game can possibly be BORING?!?

Artistically great, a pleasure for eyes and hears, pleasant freedom of movement and exploration, engaging story and very god battle system.

What do you want more?!?

virtualk32
virtualk32

Sheesh....all these folks saying how its "boring" after playing the demo, or the first hour.  Reviews are meant for when you've actually played, and completed and game.  Don't discount a game if you're only 1 hour into it.  Its slow to start, sure.  But when your party has expanded to 6 people and you're in full-fledged battles where you're swapping out characters for new ones it DOES get to be fun.  I was more taken by the story and atmosphere though.  Perhaps its due to the fact that my daughter is Aurora's age, but I felt drawn to everything she did.  I'm not gonna comment on ratings numbers (who the F cares?)...is it worth the money?  Yes.  YES. 

vernholio
vernholio

Holy <bleep>... PLEASE talk to us, not at us!  These video reviews... sheesh!  I could only get through about a third of this one... Gentlemen (and ladies) performing the reviews, we admire your BA's in English Lit with a minor in Journalism from Southern Illinois Techno-Poly University (or wherever), but you've gotta know that there's a MONSTER difference between the written word and the spoken word. PLEASE just talk to us about the game... Drop the overly-flowery adjectives and over-used metaphor (save that for the written version, if you must).  I get that you're trying to paint a picture, but all of this -- combined with the stiffness in which it's presented -- is just off-putting (Sorry Tom, I DO enjoy your written reviews).  I'm definitely not saying you have to dumb it down... Just tell us about the game and it's ins and outs.  Talk to us the way that you would with a buddy about the game -- The way that I'm sure you do with each other at the GameSpot offices.  I'm willing to bet the words "melancholy", "whimsical" and "foliage" never once passed your lips when you were explaining this game to your peers at Gamespot.  


To this game... It looks beautiful, and different from the mass-produced stuff that the gaming companies continue to churn out.  I'm looking forward to giving it a try... So, I'm relying on the review to give me the nudge I need to drop the cash and buy it.  But, when you can't even make it through the review...


I'm sure I'll get bashed for this, I just want to hear an opinion on a game from the eyes and mouth of an average Joe (Keep the caveman, "Game good. Pretty colors!" comments to yourself).

eLite0101
eLite0101

Just finished game. It is one of the best games since at least several years, got me back my feelings I had when I played games 10y ago. It doesnt start that strong but more into the game, less sleep.

saber310
saber310

this game is great worth the money imo(bought the deluxe physical copy for PC :D)

Zenwork21
Zenwork21

Just finished the game and I did love it

OldKye
OldKye

Tom gave a game a 8/10? wow it must really suck then shame really *cough*


lol I'm liking it so far though it just jabbed me in the feels FF7 style the last time I played ty for the review tom (^.^)d

jedinortd_basic
jedinortd_basic

Bought this on my wii u and love it! I actually like to lay in my bed and play off the tablet right before sleep. Helps me unwind lol

electronic_eye
electronic_eye

In relation to "The Good" and "The Bad" points at the end of the review, it doesn't make any sense to give a game an 8 if there's nothing you list as bad. If you are that found of the game, give it a 9 at least. I haven't played it yet but am certainly interested in it, and I'm not some diehard Ubisoft fanboy. I like some of their games; some I don't. It's just that I've seen this happen before here on GS and just think credit should be given when credit is due. 

Super_C
Super_C

Tom: you are a brilliant writer.  I think I've posted a similar comment before, but I frequently find myself reading a review and thinking "wow, this is an outstanding article".  Then, I scroll to the top to see who wrote it and, invariably, it's Tom Mc Shea.

springy75
springy75

last time i said this game a simple and straight 10 ... now i take it back after playing and finishing the game during the last 11 days : i agree now with gamespot (TOM) is doesn't deserve more than 8... 

the bad i founds:

1- it start slow with very easy fights and end fast
2- the conversation rhyme get me bored after a while (they should have used sounds instead) i felt like reading on old children book ... 

3- all the bosses fights are easy once you master the battle system (they should made them a little more smart)
4- I am still wondering why there are collected letters in such a game ? i never used or read them


byzantine_chant
byzantine_chant

This game is great and has an awesome battle system.

thekazumalord
thekazumalord

I played the demo of this game.. and I don't understand why it got a high score.. i'd give it a 2 at most.. the game is boring and almost preschooler level easy.. I had no idea what was going on (that part is forgivable since t was only a demo), and it seems like a cheaply made 5 dollar downloadable game overall.. even the retail price of $15 is too much if you ask me..

chris1980s
chris1980s

Surprise, surprise, another 2D love fest.

LilRoss2k3
LilRoss2k3

why the HELL does it seem impossible for this guy to write a game review and not some wanna-be poetic essay????  i mean dude could be reviewing M&M wii racing and would try to make it sound like some lame english 1 assignment.

hkymike
hkymike

Looks amazing on the PS4

Talavaj
Talavaj

It would be nice if Tom wrote an actual review instead of a highschooler's essay for a change. 

That being said, a nice game but the stupid exploitative day one DLCs should have been mentioned and added to the bad points.

tumblerpiston
tumblerpiston

The game sounds interesting, but I'm not sure I want to play something so that inspires feelings alone. The way he makes it sound it seems like it would have fit better in some other form of media. In a game I like to also have fun, something that seems a little lacking here, though it might just be because he focused so deeply in the tone of the game instead of mechanics.

klonoa53
klonoa53

*warframe theme* Every game


jacquelineferre
jacquelineferre

I loved the art but I'll still wait to buy it because this looks like one of those games that I buy but never finish because it is boring.

amax6416
amax6416

I hate listening to all of Gamespots reviewers voices, they are all terrible. 

NTM23
NTM23

Beat it about two hours ago now. I liked it. I think it needed to be a little bit better in some areas for me to call it 'superb', but I still recommend people play it. I feel like I should have written this in rhyme, but that may not chime, though heck, it wouldn't have be a crime. I really did that on a dime. Well, I better bail because that was a fail.

seanmp5
seanmp5

I don't know...

Does this game even convey anything or is it just self-indulgent sentimentality like so much else in moderne gaming/movies/books?

As for the gameplay, I doubt that the gameplay mechanics of Child of Light can hold their own against true pioneers of the RPG genre like Secret of Mana or Chrono Trigger, which were both demanding, highly balanced and, therefore, infinitly more rewarding than nearly all games of the modern era.

Seriously, why do all post-Modern Warfare games (with the exception of Dark Souls, of cause) feel like 5-10 hours of "Press X to see stuff happen"?!?! Are modern gamers really that dumb? Of cause not! Game developers like Activison and, indeed, Ubisoft just seem unaware of this fact.

Newhopes
Newhopes

Great game with one of the best sound tracks in recent times.

poweronpub
poweronpub

@virtualk32 Thanks for this! I'm surprised by people who seem to not want to give the game (or any game, really) a fair chance after such little time actually playing it. Its super fun and enjoyable, though I admit I didn't enjoy it quite as much as I expected to (more on that here: http://www.poweronpub.com/child-of-light-review/). Even so, though, its definitely worth the price and time.

leilanee
leilanee

@vernholio Eugh, yeah, he sounds like every public speaking presentation I had to endure in middle school.

OldKye
OldKye

@electronic_eye  I can give you one $20 of DLC for a $15 game lol doesn't anyway make the game bad but most players I know would take a few points off for that. ^.^


Also it's tom 8/10 is the greatest compliment or the most atrocious insult he can give a game depending on who your talking to lol. ^.^

taimachan
taimachan

I found it overly verbose and waffle-y myself. What he is actually saying gets lost amidst layers of description and introspective remarks. There were some issues with sentence structure and repetition, wording something slightly differently within the same line/paragraph. Most gamers aren't writers, but if you look at it from a writers' perspective, more description doesn't always equal 'more good'.

Maybe I'm just being a bitch, but half the reason I want to have a crack at this writing for games business is that the 'best' aren't all that good within the greater sphere of journalism (or copypaste *cough*Kotaku*cough*)

I get the feeling someone will come shove my 2c up my ass in a second...

leilanee
leilanee

@springy75 First off, learn to grammar.

Now that that's out of the way: the game was designed exactly the way you described - to feel like an old children's book.  The artwork of the game is made like a storybook illustration and the (not extremely well written) poetry are supposed to complement it for the same reason.  You said you've finished the game; I forget exactly how the last few lines go, but they say in a nutshell "Now rest your head and go to sleep" as though it had all been a story being read directly to a child.
My point in all this is that I would definitely not list that as a bad point of the game.  I'd call that a job very well done considering that was the intent.

thorn3000
thorn3000

@chris1980s yeah only this it isn't an indie, but a major dev like ubisoft jumping on the artistic bandwagon...and it's great, same as all artistic indies, perhaps once art in games was something for hipster, but now that they reached and it fact surpassed movies in art, these games are for everyone

NTM23
NTM23

@Talavaj  No one should care. It's not a requirement, so why should he mention it as a bad?

The-Neon-Seal
The-Neon-Seal

@tumblerpiston Bastion was one of the most downbeat games I've ever played, but also one of the most enduring -narrative wise.

NTM23
NTM23

@tumblerpiston  To me personally, Tom went over the top with the emphasis on tone, when it's really not that big of a deal; it seems more like a personal thing for him than one many others will feel the same about. I mean, there are some sad moments, ones some could perhaps relate to, but in the end, it's a decent though not really original story, with a variety of locations and simple yet fun RPG mechanics, and there are also funny and happy moments too, it's not just doom and gloom.

bunchanumbers
bunchanumbers

@tumblerpiston  It could have easily been a fairytale told to children. It could also have been a movie. And I still think it would have been as entertaining. 

Chaos_Dante_456
Chaos_Dante_456

@amax6416  I kind of feel the same way. Perhaps I've become to accustomed to Yahtzee's Zero Punctuation 

NTM23
NTM23

@amax6416  


It's not their voices so much as it's the way they get their points across in reviews. They all seemed to have adopted a certain way to describe the games in their review. That being said, I rarely watch their video reviews now and just read them if I want to. I'll be honest, most of the time their score and 'the good' and 'the bad' are good enough for games I'm only somewhat interested in.

guitarpete462
guitarpete462

@amax6416  I understand criticizing a style, or grammar, or something like that. But a voice? We only get one voice, and we don't choose it. If part of the job is to make a video review, I'm sure he's doing the best he can. 

tribeofasher
tribeofasher

@seanmp5  If you like turn-based RPG's then you need to get this. It has the best JRPG combat in a decade. Just wait until you're a few hours into it.


It's an awesome game. It's not a complex game, though. It's more of a beautiful journey through art and music with the best active-time-combat-system in a very long time. I think the combat system could contend for the best turn based system ever, once you get far into the game.


For example, in my opinion, this single $15 game just embarrasses Square Enix's last three outings (13, 13-2 and 13-3).


Awesome job, Ubisoft. Seriously...

quickshooterMk2
quickshooterMk2

@NTM23 @Talavaj  cause if i want aurora to look different i shouldn't pay the extra bucks 


it's the principal and gullible people say "meh, it's only a couple of bucks" 


no, fuck that, and also why Uplay? why the fuck putting another DRM when you buy it on steam?! 


i wanted to buy this, but nasty publishers don't deserve my bucks 

but know this is the standard nowadays... 


metro last light charged people 5$ for fucking super hardmode (which was fun) 

we can't let these fucking publishers get away with this 


the best way to punish them is to get the game in a sale, it's legit and you profit from 

patience is a virtue 

NTM23
NTM23

@energilc 


I did everything minus upgrade entirely, and it took me about 12 hours give or take. I wish it had a counter, so I could be exact. It's not as short a game as it looks, I'll give it that, and you could totally spend more hours in this game than the amount you spend to buy it. I think after you beat it and do all the side stuff, there isn't much reason to play it again, so you probably won't get 30 hours out of it (like the last person said), unless you really, REALLY want to grind, which I wouldn't recommend.

robo_toad
robo_toad

@energilc @NTM23  It depends on how much of a completionist you are. I ended up spending 15-20 hours on the first playthrough and for the second playthrough I wouldn't be surprised if I logged in another 30 hours. 

NTM23
NTM23

@quickshooterMk2 No, I'd simply say don't buy the DLC, because it's not worth it. I think mentioning it as a bad is pretty petty.

energilc
energilc

That's cool. I just didn't wanna spend 15 bucks and get a marvelous 5 hour game.

Child of Light More Info

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  • First Released
    • PC
    • PlayStation 3
    • + 5 more
    • PlayStation 4
    • PlayStation Vita
    • Wii U
    • Xbox 360
    • Xbox One
    Child of Light is a digital download, 2D side-scrolling role-playing game inspired by the art style of Studio Ghibli.
    8.2
    Average User RatingOut of 172 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Child of Light
    Developed by:
    Ubisoft Montreal
    Published by:
    Ubisoft
    Genres:
    Role-Playing
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    All Platforms
    Fantasy Violence, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco