Review

Child of Light Review

  • Game release: April 29, 2014
  • Reviewed: July 7, 2014
  • VITA

The uses of enchantment.

by

Fairy tales may be works of escapism, but no fairy tale worth its salt is purely a work of frivolous fantasy. No, the best fairy tales simultaneously let children escape from the frightening realities of life, while also helping them confront those realities, teaching them that even though life is difficult and scary sometimes, they are capable of overcoming adversity and coping with loss. Child of Light is a fine fairy tale in this tradition, a fantasy that deals with the reality of what it means to grow up. It's also a gorgeous game with an engaging turn-based battle system and wondrous realms that are a joy to discover and explore. After coming to consoles and PC earlier this year, the game has made its way to the Vita, and it's as excellent as ever.

Child of Light tells the story of Aurora, daughter of an Austrian duke in the late 1800s who finds herself transported to the land of Lemuria. Here, she learns that it is her destiny to recover the sun, moon, and stars from the evil queen who has stolen the light from the land. At first, she is understandably reluctant and even petulant about having this responsibility thrust upon her shoulders when all she wants to do is wake up back in Austria and hurry to her heartsick father's side. It's the way that she grows over the course of the game that makes her journey meaningful. She befriends a diverse group of characters who all have struggles of their own and who find their strength in each other, and her journey is empowering, but not altogether joyous. Child of Light is a richer game for the ways in which it acknowledges the hard decisions and the inevitable sadness that are part and parcel of leaving childhood behind.

Lemuria, like Child of Light, is sad and beautiful and full of wonder.

Unfortunately, the game's writing sometimes distracts from the emotion of its story. Characters speak in rhyme, and at times, the words they use are clumsy and forced, chosen to fit into the rhyming structure rather than to effectively communicate what the characters are thinking or feeling. At least the game has some fun with its own convention via the character of Rubella, an aspiring circus jester who goofs up every exchange, using a word that doesn't rhyme with what came before ("vocalist") when a perfectly common and obvious word ("singer") would have worked just fine.

But if the writing sometimes keeps you at arms length, the visuals pull you in completely. The distinctive realms of Lemuria are more reminiscent of the off-kilter fantasy lands of films like The Neverending Story and The Dark Crystal than of the Tolkienesque high fantasy that informs so many games. Your quest takes you high and low, to platforms held in the sky by massive balloons and into crystal caverns under the surface of the land. and everywhere you go, their melancholy beauty makes them a pleasure to behold, and their imaginative design creates the feeling that you don't know what other strange wonders Lemuria might have for you to discover.

You travel through Lemuria from a two-dimensional side-view perspective, and though you're bound to the ground like an ordinary girl when the game begins, early on you gain the power of flight. There are plenty of treasure chests for you to discover and optional side quests to complete, giving you an incentive to venture off the beaten path, soar up into the skies and explore every nook and cranny of these lands. Many areas also have environmental hazards and traps for you to avoid, and though these never pose too much of a challenge, they make navigating the world a bit trickier and more involving than it would be if it didn't have any dangers.

The real danger of Lemuria is in its monsters. You can see them in the environment which typically makes avoiding them easy, but more often than not, you'll want to fly into them, both because Child of Light's combat is enjoyable and because you'll want to level up your characters to prepare them for the challenges ahead. Battles are built on a foundation of traditional turn-based role-playing game combat, but there are enough wrinkles here to give you plenty to think about. You can rarely just spam standard attacks endlessly on your way to victory.

You can only have two characters in combat at any one time, but you can swap out one character for another instantly when his or her turn comes along, and switching between characters with the offensive muscle you want and those with the healing abilities you need to stay alive is one concern. And you can use the glow of Aurora's firefly friend Igniculus to slow down enemies' progress along the timeline. Your goal with this is typically to have your attacks strike enemies just before they would have attack you, which interrupts their attacks and knocks them backwards on the timeline, effectively denying them a chance to act. It's particularly satisfying to get into a rhythm where you keep knocking enemies back, using Igniculus to slow them down just enough so that they're right where you want them and then using your characters' own attacks to interrupt them again and again.

Battles are also rewarding because of the steady clip at which your characters level up. After almost every battle, at least one of your characters advances, getting boosts to stats as well as earning skill points that you can use to unlock additional stat boosts or more powerful skills. Of course, it's fun to see your characters become stronger over the course of the game, but what makes Child of Light meaningful is the way that Aurora grows emotionally stronger. Eventually we have to leave the realms of fairy tales behind and face the challenges of reality once more, but Lemuria is the kind of fantasy realm that stays with you as long as you remain a child somewhere in your heart.

The Good
Aurora's story is poignant and meaningful
Lemuria is a beautiful and imaginative fantasy realm
Enjoyable combat system that builds on traditional turn-based mechanics
The Bad
Rhyming structure of dialogue is sometimes distracting
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Child of Light

About the Author

/ Staff

Carolyn first started playing Child of Light when it was released on consoles, but when she heard it was coming to Vita, she waited, thinking that the game would be a good fit for the handheld. She was pleased to find that it is, and spent about 12 hours accompanying Aurora on her adventure.

Discussion

147 comments
calvintower
calvintower

Recently bought the game on Steam and I just absolutely love the artstyle and gameplay.

stevenhearnn
stevenhearnn

Child Of Light the greatest game ever I have loved it is awesome I cant wait for a DLC´s if there's one you have the luck to play as Aurora the princess how do you can don't like it!

CoolCamel616
CoolCamel616

My take on the game-

It is as shallow as it is pretty.


The combat seems to just get in the way, as even on hard it is never a challenge, only time consuming. You never really have to think during battles as the actual combat is rather shallow; it has basically one aspect to it which interrupting/getting interrupted, so combat just comes down to choosing whatever attack will hit when you want it to. The attacks aren't at all visually interesting either, which was a disappointment considering the quality of the art. Initially exploration is fun, but it is bogged down by repetition and the combat. While there are occasionally some very minor platforming aspects to finding secrets, most exploration involves looking for where to go and pointing the stick in that direction. Similarly, the game doesn't really have puzzles. You will sometimes have to do something extra to open a door, but it is more similar to hitting a button than solving a puzzle.


The visuals are by far the best part of the game, they are very pretty. I really wanted to love this game just for its art style. The environments and the characters (in the actual game world that is) were all a joy to look at and made me play for much longer than I would have based solely on the game play and story. My favorite part of the game was exploring every nook and cranny. However, this soon wore thin as it is hard to want to explore when the only worth while reward is the visuals.


An RPG with lackluster combat needs a good story to carry it, but unfortunately I found Child of Light lacking that aspect too. The beginning cutscene is hard to follow because the developers chose a rhyming prose, as apposed to prose that flows without sacrificing clarity (sorry, it just sort of happened and I couldn't resist :D ). While initially the rhyming is charming, the charm wears out extremely quickly. Many of the rhymes are really forced and don't really make sense, not to mention it will just stop rhyming at times for seemingly no reason. The story itself  is not very engaging, rhymes aside. To top it off, none of the characters are especially compelling or likeable. Like other aspects of the game, the characters can be best described as shallow. For the most part, they consist of a simple goal (that is predictably contradictory to their "personality"), a speech gimmick, and a single, exaggerated personality trait.


As much as I wanted to like this game, as a lover of both fairy tales and rpgs, I just couldn't. Good art aside, I found nearly every aspect of the game substandard and annoying at best, mind numbingly boring at worst. However, although I haven't heard it said (I might just be out of the loop though, lol), I think the reason I didn't enjoy it is because the game is targeted at much younger gamers. I think this would be a very good game for children or even young teens. Although I never played its easy mode, I'd imagine even the young kids should be able to play through it without any trouble or frustration. Coupled with the storybook style of the cutscenes+dialogue, the coming of age type story, and the beautiful art, I think it could be really enjoyable to any kids who enjoys fantasy, and a good place to introduce them to RPGs.

stevenhearnn
stevenhearnn

I just finished the game yesterday. I am completely taken, very beautiful, nice story, almost like a fairy tale that I believe resonates to most of us. And besides all the artistic qualities, there are nice battles, a rather smart crafting system that can change the way you play and plenty of discovery. It has to be one of the best buys with surprisingly lots to do if you want to explore everything. The great thing is that, as much as I would love a sequel, I prefer it to end there in order not to spoil the story, which resembles the tales we were aspiring to when we were young.

highpitcairn
highpitcairn

Still there are some Jaggies, But who care this game is awesome.

robertcain
robertcain

Pretty good game yet ironically it's games like this which show how much of a failure the Vita has been. The best the handheld system can give us nowadays is decent ports of games which have already been released on other systems already.

Mindwipe77
Mindwipe77

I bought this on ps4 around the time it came out.  I have not had much time to spend on it yet, but i'm looking forward to the journey soon.

themc_7
themc_7

In the theme of Carolyn, I'm going to play the sexist, whiner card here (purely for fun). 


I am required to play a female character in this game. Where is my option to play as a male character? Such oppression, the game is unplayable.

NidhoggII
NidhoggII

The review itself is kinda pointless in a sense that it makes you wonder if Gamespot's editors efforts could have been directed at something more insightful, like a review for a new game. I haven't seen a review for Sniper Elite III and there are many other games that haven't been reviewed  before that, yet they go for reviewing a game which is already released.

canuckbiker
canuckbiker

Honestly, without the vita, I'd never have the time to get around to playing these games.

canuckbiker
canuckbiker

It's time for you to go to bed child.

Orga777
Orga777

@themc_7

Probably in the endless stream of other games that exist that out number the games where you play as a female character probably 20/1 (and that is being generous.) 


Also, nobody complains about playing as a male/female character in single player games (unless they are done that casts said gender in a negative light.) What people complain about is in multi-player games where developers give really lame excuses on "it takes time." :/

Bgrngod
Bgrngod

@nazgoroth And that's a damn shame it isn't.


I haven't bought it yet on any of the platforms I own, but if it had been Cross-Buy my decision would have been made for me very easily.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@nazgoroth 

Making this a cross-buy game is the last thing that Ubisoft would do. :/

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@NidhoggII 

As for the other games, what do you expect? If GameSpot's staffers and contributing freelancers don't care enough about games like Sniper Elite III to write a review for them, there won't be any reviews for them.

(I should remind you that Sniper Elite III had been featured more than once on GameSpot, if only for the hilarity of the historically dubious nut-shots.)

I would also tell you that I was like you before - wondering about why GameSpot doesn't appear to pay attention to certain games. In fact, I had upset Kevin vanOrd before with a remark that GameSpot resorts to paying freelancers for reviews of strategy games (and I phrased this in an unkind manner).

I am over that now though, because I realized that GameSpot doesn't owe me, or you, or any other viewer a damn thing when it comes to which games are reviewed. You should get over that too.

P.S. Then there is the conveniently true argument that GameSpot can't post reviews for every f***ing game out there.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@NidhoggII 

It's not "pointless" to me, but that's only because I stopped kicking up a fuss over what GameSpot's staffers and contributing freelancers review. Besides, if I want a review for a game which GameSpot has yet to review, I go elsewhere.

Rather, I would tell you what I think is happening here.

Petit here would LOVE to write a review for a game like Child of Light, which is the kind of game that she would like. I imagine she had to beat the sh*t out of Tom McShea, who would have wanted to recycle a review for the VITA version of Child of Light (and he loves to play games which he likes on the VITA). If that happened, Petit obviously won.

themc_7
themc_7

@Orga777 I would the 20/1 ratio is quite inaccurate now. A vast chunk of games nowadays the protagonist is female, or we have the option to be female. To name a few:

Elders Scrolls, Mass Effect, Borderlands, TombRaider,  Assassins Creed:Liberation, LAst of Us, Walking Dead Season 2, Beyond Two Souls, Saints Row, Remember Me, Bioshock Infinite(Burial at Sea), Resident Evil Series, Lollipop Chainsaw, Mirror's Edge, Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and so on.


A more accurate ratio might be 3:1 or 4:1, but 20:1 is way off. 

rumplestew
rumplestew

@Bgrngod agreed that Cross-Buy would be ideal. I do think this game lends itself really well to the handheld format though and am not missing playing it on my PS3

NidhoggII
NidhoggII

@Gelugon_baat When have I ever stated that Gamespot owes me anything?? and get over what exactly? you might wanna calm the hell down.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@NidhoggII 

Maybe you are the one who ought to calm down because you don't seem to realize that my statement of "doesn't owe" is just a figure of speech. :/

(Also, you might want to notice that you made the same comment twice.)

As for that remark of "get over it", I was suggesting that you should get over expecting GameSpot to publish reviews for the other games which you mentioned. With that said, that is what you think that GameSpot "owes" you there - that it should be publishing reviews for those other games which you mentioned.

NidhoggII
NidhoggII

@Gelugon_baat If you wanna disagree with me that's perfectly fine, just don't be rude and assume things I never said or even implied.

NidhoggII
NidhoggII

@Gelugon_baat "that is what you think that GameSpot "owes" you there".  Nope, again you're  making an assumption about me. You don't know anything about what I think of. Me making a suggestion about Gamespot publishing reviews for new games instead of reviewing games which they already reviewed  doesn't mean that I think they "owe" me anything, its just my mere opinion. And as for "you should get over expecting GameSpot to publish reviews for the other games which you mentioned" that's another assumption you just made.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@NidhoggII 

As for the first assumption, I have already said that you don't recognize a figure of speech when you see it. Also, it's technically not the same game - it's a port to the VITA three months later.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@NidhoggII 

How is the second assumption wrong then? If it is wrong, you would not have made the remark  "Gamespot's editors efforts could have been directed at something more insightful, like a review for a new game".

NidhoggII
NidhoggII

@Gelugon_baat @NidhoggII Nope, I was over it the minute I made that comment, I only cared enough about the topic to make a simple and single comment about it and that's it, if they don't follow up on it that's fine by me. 

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@NidhoggII 

Also, if you are going to say that, don't get caught making the same remark again.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@MooncalfReviews 

I don't think that I had been wrong in this argument. If I had been, do point out the cold hard facts that prove me wrong.

NidhoggII
NidhoggII

@Gelugon_baat @NidhoggII Unlike you, I don't make assumptions about the way other people think.


MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

@Gelugon_baat I didn't mean this argument. I started skimming after the bajillionth reply, so I don't know who is right on this one.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@NidhoggII 

So says you who made a remark about the "efforts" of GameSpot's editors. How would you know about the way that they think? :/

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@NidhoggII 

It's a colloquial phrase for "opinion".

I suppose that if you don't know that, you would be throwing up a fuss over my "owe" remark. :/

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@MooncalfReviews 

So why make the remark "even when you are wrong" if you cannot even be certain? I suppose that you are too lazy to read the entire argument but quick enough to conclude that I am wrong?

NidhoggII
NidhoggII

@Gelugon_baat @NidhoggII That's why I said "makes you wonder", its because I don't know. Didn't jump into any conclusions there.

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

@Gelugon_baat I was speaking about all the times in the past when you've been wrong, but continued to reply anyway. Throw a dart at a gamespot reviews list for the evidence.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@NidhoggII 

Oh, that's a good save which you made there. Well, if you are going to resort to this semantic excuse, don't get caught making a more conclusive statement in the future.

NidhoggII
NidhoggII

@Gelugon_baat @NidhoggII judging From what I have seen by scrolling down the comment page, may I ask if it is in your childish habit to always have the last reply?

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@NidhoggII 

Why not? I don't mind being "childish" - probably because I have very thick skin. :/

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@MooncalfReviews 

This is not chess. You made the allegation first - you have to prove it.

Of course, unless you are the sort who believes in guilt before innocence.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@MooncalfReviews 

Ah, so this is true in this bit, if you lump these two sentences from different statements together. So what of it?

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

@Gelugon_baat Cite a precedence of an AI telling people they aren't really an AI? Just about any virtual girlfriend app.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@MooncalfReviews 

That app is just software - hardly technically A.I.

Also, how would you know about this bit about virtual girlfriend apps? Do you use them?

Child of Light More Info

  • 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.
    8.3
    Average User RatingOut of 155 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