Upon first impressions, you would be forgiven for dismissing Child Of Light as little more than fairy-tale nonsense. How often have we seen the story of a little girl transported to a mythical kingdom of fairies and evil queens? The themes presented here are not too dissimilar from those presented in the Narnia chronicles or Alice In Wonderland. That isn’t to say that a fairy-tale story has nothing relevant to say in the modern era, it’s just that Child Of Light feels far too familiar when it sets down its initial plotlines.
You play as a young girl named Aurora who one day falls into a deep sleep and awakes in an unfamiliar land. The world of Lemuria is beholden to the nefarious Queen Of The Night, who has stolen the moon and the stars. The queen alone holds the key for Aurora to return to her previous life, so she sets out with her firefly companion, Igniculus (who looks similar to one of the slimes from Dragon Quest), to defeat the queen and find her way home.
As is typical, you could substitute any character’s name and insert the story directly into countless fairy-tales. The game doesn’t do itself any favours with the rhyming structure it employs either. All dialogue has to rhyme in the most irritating fashion possible, often feeling laboured and forced. Vogon poetry is better than this. You’ll likely only skim read most of the dialogue just to get a vague idea as to what’s going on (believe me, it’s the best way to deal with the terrible poetry).
Luckily for RPG fans, Child Of Light has far more to offer in terms of gameplay. The game is presented in a 2D platform style, but confronting an enemy will transition into a traditional turn-based RPG that anyone familiar with Grandia or early Final Fantasy games will instantly recognise. In fact, the game utilises a system similar to the Active Time Battle from Final Fantasy IV onwards. Battles are Child Of Light’s strongest quality, and there are plenty of fights to pick across the land of Lemuria. Enemies will have different weaknesses and resistances, so exploring your attack options is crucial to success. Hitting an enemy before they are just about to attack will stagger them, meaning they have to wait longer to attack, and the reverse will occur for members of your own party. Each character that joins your party has a variety of skills and magic, all of which are useful and will supplement your battle strategies nicely.
The most intriguing aspect of the battle system is the addition of your firefly pal Igniculus. If you use him on an enemy, you can slow them down, allowing you to get an extra hit or two in. If you use him on an ally, you can slowly heal them, allowing you to survive devastating attacks. Obviously, there is a limit to how often you can use Igniculus per battle, but this extra boost can easily turn the tables of a fight that would otherwise be stacked heavily against you.
While battling is Child Of Light’s best feature, it doesn’t really become challenging until at least half way through, even on Expert mode. It is recommended that you play on Expert mode even on a first play through as Casual mode (renamed in the first patch) offers virtually no challenge whatsoever. The first areas can be cleared with little more than spamming standard attacks. Boss fights, however, offer more of a challenge and are the highlights of the entire experience.
When not engaged in the heat of battle, you will be exploring the map. Soon after you begin your adventure you will be gifted a set of wings, which allow you to fly around Lemuria and explore hidden passageways and chests. Items are in abundant supply, especially Oculi, which are a variety of gemstones that can crafted and added to weapons for additional bonus effects.
Fortunately, since you’re encouraged to explore every nook and cranny, the world is fantastically realised through Ubisoft’s gorgeous UbiArt engine. The artistic direction is cohesive and wonderfully creative, often resembling a vibrant storyboard for a Studio Ghibli film. This really helps to sell a world that would otherwise feel flat. It also encourages you to explore and take the world in; to experience its glorious ravines and its gloomy forests.
Child Of Light is a fantastic game that really ought to be experienced by anyone with an interest in RPGs or platformers. Disappointingly though, there are a couple of unforgivable flaws that hold it back from greatness.