Microsoft have certainly upped the ante with their Games with Gold titles for the month of April 2015. Games like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Terraria are now free to download on various Xbox consoles for subscribers, but the title that caught my eye the most was Child of Light. I quite enjoyed the Ubisoft Montreal-developed title when I first played it, and with it now being available for free on Xbox One (and receiving its first physical release in PS Vita form this week), I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to go back and replay it.
Last year, our own Adam Lloyd reviewed Child of Light, and gave it a Power Up Gaming score of eight out of 10. He praised the old school, turn-based RPG battle system and the art style created by Ubisoft’s UbiArt engine. But Adam also thought that the story was a simple rehash of typical fairy tale themes, and felt that the rhymed dialogue was a bit forced and often bordered on the ridiculous… Igniculus. I have played through Child of Light a number of times, but this time I went through it with Adam’s comments in mind, and paid special attention to his praise and criticism alike to see if my opinion matched his.
When I first played through Child of Light, I thought the story was quite interesting and compelling. But on this playthrough, I noted many similarities to classic Disney or Brothers Grimm fairy tales, particularly Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. These tales were clearly the inspiration and motivation behind the story of the game. Let’s break it down for a minute. The main character is named Aurora and she falls into a deep sleep, which she is unable to awaken from until she can defeat an evil sorceress. Am I talking about Sleeping Beauty or Child of Light? Therein lies the problem. Continuing on, the main antagonists in the game are Aurora’s evil stepmother and wicked stepsister. Was Ubisoft attempting to pay homage to these classic stories, or did they just give up on an original plot?
Next on our list of issues is the rhyming dialogue. Adam, I have to respectfully tell you that you are dead wrong on this one. I totally adore the conversations in this game. It’s a fairy tale! Why would I want to read a fairy tale if it doesn’t rhyme? In all seriousness though, it does seem a bit unnatural at times, and the writers would have done well to realize that not every single line needs to be rhymed pentameter; switching up the formula can be refreshing. Some of the lines are downright laughable, but even though the dialogue might seem forced at times, I felt that it suited the tone of the game for the most part, barring the more intense sequences.
It’s no secret that I have a fairly debilitating Final Fantasy addiction, and the battle system in Child of Light is the perfect cure for any FF withdrawals that I may suffer. The active-time-battle-like combat system is great, and the ability to slow your opponents or heal yourself on the fly via your pal Igniculus is a total lifesaver, especially during the more difficult bosses. I love the combination of a traditional JRPG battle system with retro 2D platformer mechanics. I never got bored of taking to the sky on Aurora’s wings in search of enemies to level up against. There are plenty of abilities for each character to learn, and it becomes pretty addictive when trying to gain all the necessary experience required to fill the ability grids. And, of course, the game looks incredible. Ubisoft really outdid themselves in terms of artistic quality and level design.
Child of Light is a bit short, and I finished this playthrough in just under four hours. Keep in mind that I have beat the game several times before, so there was no searching for the proper path or fiddling with unnecessary party members. But, as has been discussed heavily in the industry lately, length doesn’t really matter, right? Considering that Child of Light is just a hair shorter than The Order: 1886, the game that recently started this whole game length controversy, and the fact that it costs just a fraction of the price (or nothing if you pick it up during the title’s run on Games With Gold), you can’t really go wrong here.
Lastly, one thing that Adam didn’t mention in his review is the music. Written and performed by French-Canadian artist Cœur de Pirate, the music from Child of Light is absolutely stunning. It is gorgeous, eerie, emotional and triumphant, all at the same time. The majority of the musical pieces are themes played mostly on piano and cello, with some of the grander battle themes being performed by a full orchestra and choir. Not since Final Fantasy X have I felt more moved by a game’s music. The musical score from Child of Light doesn’t just make the game more enjoyable, it simply makes the game. Each piece perfectly reflects the tone and environment of each scene, and adds a sense of mystery and etherealism to each moment of the game.
So, how does my second opinion stack up against Adam’s original one? We agree on most counts, except that I am a fan of the rhyming speech while he is not. The music is also a huge bonus from my perspective, though that may not be as important to other players. I’ll also quickly mention the DLC for this game. The Golem’s Plight download gives you access to the Golem character quite early in the game. He is a powerhouse physical attacker, and quite the valuable resource.
Ultimately, I think that the original score of 8 out of 10 doesn’t do this beautiful game justice. I’d lean more towards an 8.5 or a 9. It’s not every day that you find a game that you can play over and over, enjoying it just as much on every reiteration.
If you are an Xbox One owner and haven’t yet had the chance to play Child of Light, I highly recommend it to just about any type of gamer.