(PlayStation 4)

Child of Light (PlayStation 4)

Game Review

Child of Light Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Mat Growcott

Painted paradise

Child of Light, a new two-dimensional role-playing game from Ubisoft, is best described using the titles that it was so obviously influenced by. With a Limbo-esque atmosphere, a Final Fantasy IX-inspired narrative, a visual style straight out of a storybook, and the occasional smattering of Rayman-style platforming, this is an adventure for families and genre aficionados alike. But with such big names setting its direction, can it live up to that list of heavy hitters, or does it sink to the ‘lowest of the low’, where the dark witches live?

You can’t properly discuss this release without first mentioning its graphics, as they’re so clear on the PlayStation 4 that it really does look like a painting. This art style is not exactly original, but Ubisoft Montreal has really nailed it here – it feels like you’re interacting with an illustrated edition of Alice in Wonderland. Moreover, every object that you encounter fits in perfectly, and the hand drawn assets really add to the old-fashioned story. Only a few characters ruin the watercolour illusion – particularly the humans and the main protagonist.

Aurora is a little princess, who, upon falling ill, finds herself in a mysterious land. Desperate to work her way back to her father, she asks for help from a local seer and befriends a firefly – two things that you should always do when lost in a foreign country. She’s also three-dimensional. In a world of beautiful flatness, it’s instantly annoying to see something so obviously computer generated, and while this isn’t going to break your immersion, it does detract from the achievements found elsewhere. We suppose that this could be explained by the protagonist and her family being from a different world, but just because it makes sense, doesn’t mean that we have to like it.

Thankfully, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to drink in the more beautiful parts of the game. Most of your time will be spent exploring, using the heroine’s flying abilities to both search up and down forests, cliff faces, and dungeons. You’ll be able to collect chests, find ‘confessions’ (lost letters blowing in the wind), and there are even side-quests and optional bosses to track down. The story itself is linear, but the way that you tackle each village and landscape, and the amount of time that you spend levelling up your party of friends, is entirely up to you.

This is where Igniculus comes in. Your little firefly buddy is always on hand to offer advice, but he’s also your key to fully unlocking the environment (he never says “Hey! Listen!” though). By using the second analogue stick, you can move the winged accomplice around, collecting things in the distance, or solving puzzles with his glow. You can also use the DualShock 4 controller’s touchpad if you so choose, but it’s never nearly as accurate as it probably should be, which is a bit of a shame.

Along the way, you’ll find yourself assisted by a ragtag gang of moody teenagers, scaredy-cat dwarves, green people, and rats, all with the average age of about fourteen. It’s just like every movie in the eighties taught us: if you’re in danger, send children. Of course, these particular young people are each gifted in different ways, and can offer you a host of advantages in battle. Each also has their own backstory and reason for joining you on your quest. These additional narratives are typically quite simple – and subscribe to clichéd setups – but the way that they’re delivered really helps to suck you into the world.

Part of the reason for this is that the writing’s fantastic, as it’s all conducted in rhyming couplets. In fact, this is done so well for such long stretches of the game that you won’t even find it that noticeable, and because it’s handled with an air of light heartedness, it never once seems pretentious or showy. There are inevitable occasions where the dialogue is stretched to the point of awkwardness, and these moments stick out like a sore thumb, but considering just how much discourse there is, it’s impressive that these instances are few and far between.

As you explore and interact, you’ll come across constant threats. Knocking into enemy monsters will start a fight, and this prompts a battle system that JRPG fans will be instantly familiar with. The basics are all there: magic and physical attacks – but the addition of Igniculus makes for a whole new level of tactics, which are layered on top of the traditional turn-based format.

At the bottom of the screen is a time bar, which shows when both allies and enemies get to attack. This is split into two areas: waiting and casting. When you reach the line between these two sections, you'll need to choose what your character is going to do. However, if you’re attacked after that, your move will get interrupted, and you’ll be forced back into the waiting category. This is simpler than it may seem on paper, and it ends up being a matter of learning when to attack and when to defend. Alas, it’s the introduction of the abovementioned firefly that makes the battle system really shine.

By holding Igniculus over an enemy, you can slow down their time bar. Got a monster about to attack you? Shine a light on it and you may be able to sneak ahead, interrupting his casting, and squeezing in an extra move. When used correctly, you can dominate the battlefield, although it’s not easy to do, and you’ll need to constantly think ahead.

Unsurprisingly, after each battle, you’ll gain experience. This allows you to unlock new skills, boost attributes, or gain passive abilities. This is where old-school RPG fans should really go nuts, as the system works similarly to a simplified version of Final Fantasy X’s sphere grid, with each character possessing multiple lines of skills to travel down. The end goal is to unlock everything, but what you prioritise is down to how you want to customise your characters. You can also use and combine elemental stones to boost your attack or defence attributes, and there’s a whole crafting sub-game dedicated to that.

Sadly, if there’s any one issue other than Aurora’s three-dimensional appearance, it’s that the game is saddeningly short. It comes to a fulfilling conclusion, but running through the story will take you around five to six hours, and while there are other things to do, a pitiful Trophy list – which will see you unlocking around 95 per cent of the trinkets just for finishing the game – may leave you pondering whether it’s worth coming back for more. Make no mistake, the adventure is exceptional while it lasts, and doesn’t feel unfinished in the slightest – but we would have happily lapped up a couple more hours.

Conclusion

Child of Light has a few flaws, but these don’t prevent it from being an instant classic. A lot like Braid in 2008, this will be a title that comes to represent a whole new generation of ‘artsy’ affairs, and while its running time leans a little on the short side, its excellent battle system and outstanding art style will ensure that you enjoy every minute while it lasts. If you’re looking for something a little different for your PS4 – or you just want to reward the poor writer who had to spend months slumped over a rhyming dictionary in order to concoct the cunningly clever plot – then this is very much a must buy.

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User Comments (53)

MadchesterManc

#2

MadchesterManc said:

Hmmm, this seems to be getting some mixed reviews so far, a few 5's n such here & there. Nice review here though :) Im still gonna keep my eye on things for a bit yet before I decide to jump in

AhabSpampurse

#3

AhabSpampurse said:

I'm very surprised at the high scores it's raking in, its also scored a perfect 10 on dualshockers! Roll on Wednesday!

divinelite

#4

divinelite said:

Nice review. Might get this but japan game sales take my money for atelier meruru. now im simply overbudget

bugula

#7

bugula said:

went ahead and ordered the deluxe version as i'm a sucker for LEs. anyone know if i'd be able to redeem the code on the US psn store (i'm assuming no since it's a Euro code).

belmont

#8

belmont said:

Hey has this game been announced for Vita? I think of getting the PS4 version but I prefer the Vita.

Squiggle55

#10

Squiggle55 said:

PS4 or Wii U? What are the differences? Is PS4 1080p and Wii U 720P? Different control options on Wii U? That's the decision I need to make.

ToOGoodOfAPlaya

#12

ToOGoodOfAPlaya said:

Turn based is the worst for me.
I dont mind platforming games but am not a Rayman fan .
This is a swing and a miss for me.
Shame as Im usually the first in line to grab a Ubi game!
Still, it looks polished and well done for those that enjoy those games.

k_andersenStaff

#13

k_andersen said:

I am so so so excited for this game! I'm probably not even going to play it, I'm just going to sit and look at it!

Gemuarto

#16

Gemuarto said:

Played demo and must say, that this game is very brilliant bla... bla... bla crap. Very wrong and bad game. As all games from Ubisoft, anyway. I can imagine myself playing it for free, just to check it out. But pay for this crap - no thank you. And I don't know about you, guys, but I think that there is nothing creative in this game. Nothing at all. And because developers were so concerned about art and style, they forgot about such things as believeable world and immersion. World is so empty, I felt like I was scrolling through some medicore gallery on smartphone. Meh... another stupid crap from Ubisoft. very glad that they've put demo on PSN...

Gemuarto

#17

Gemuarto said:

Wow, article is such a LOL!!! I think, this game will be forgotten in a month, because it's just bad and empty =). It will never become any classic.

MatGrowcottStaff

#19

MatGrowcott said:

@MadchesterManc I think the score you'd give it depends on how you approach it. If you expect a JRPG with hundreds of hours of item collection and side missions, you're going to be disappointed. This isn't Final Fantasy or Tales of, and it doesn't try to be (but that seems to be what some were expecting).

On the other hand, as an extension of the artsy platformer genre, it's brilliant. One of the first "indie" titles of its kind that I've really thought deserved the overall high scores.

Gemuarto

#20

Gemuarto said:

@MatGrowcott Yeah, it's boring platformer or bad JRPG. Did you ever played Valkyrie Profile 1 or 2? They were all this game is, but on higher level.

And, in this game, everything except art and maybe music feels empty and generic. But art and music in VP were better, anyway.

naruball

#21

naruball said:

I disagree. This is a great review. Had it already pre-ordered, but if i hadn't, this would push me to buy it. Well done, Mat.

MatGrowcottStaff

#22

MatGrowcott said:

@Gemuarto Those games are full RPGs, not to mention retail titles. You were expecting the wrong thing. Think Braid if it were less logic puzzles and more RPG.
@naruball Thanks! :)

Gemuarto

#23

Gemuarto said:

@MatGrowcott I didn't expect anything, to tell you the truth. You can tell about my expectations whatever you want =). But gameplay in this game is generic and medicore, even if all indies must be generic and medicore. You know, you can't deny gameplay, when you review games. And art isn't something beyond any imagination, or whatever. There are games with better art... If they've tried to make art + story game, like Thomas Was Alone, why did they made those boring meaningless battles and RPG elements? To make game longer?

MatGrowcottStaff

#24

MatGrowcott said:

@Gemuarto I'm not saying you should love it, it's obviously not for you, but that doesn't mean that the gameplay and art is mediocre by any stretch. Different, more paced, but not mediocre.

Each to their own.

Chris1975

#25

Chris1975 said:

@Gemuarto Sounds like someone has never had anyone disagree with their opinion.

Get over yourself mate, some are going to like it and some aren't, just like almost every game ever made.

You don't like the review, fine state your opinion but don't start jumping on others posts because they disagree with yours.

Are you 5? No! Then shut the f*** up!

odd69

#26

odd69 said:

Well regardless of the naysayers, Im buying it. I didnt really need a review to tell this was my thing but it seems alot of reviewers are enjoying it

Gemuarto

#27

Gemuarto said:

@Chris1975 If you give someone advices, why not follow them for yourself? =)

@MatGrowcott Medicore and generic battle system is medicore and generic battle system. You can call it not medicore, because you had very little experience with JRPGs, but it's medicore by any JRPG standarts. And any japanese game with battle system like that will never have more than 7 on any site. And you tell me that it's OK, because it is an indie game. But should we give indies excuses for things like that. No way.

And to tell you the truth. This game is not indie at all. It is just little commercial game. Because if you look at it, you'll see, that it is made from rules taken from ubi's book of commercial game design and ideas stolen from JRPGs. And it is made to make Ubi's image less greedy and pragmatic, more creative.

And you know, I think that I am not the only one. A lot of people will feel bad about generic, cheap and predictable parts of this game. So, I think it's just not honest to give it so much praise, to not consider in review their opinions.

MatGrowcottStaff

#29

MatGrowcott said:

@Squiggle55

You can control Igniculus and play off-screen. You'll be able to do the same with the Dualshock 4 Touch Pad and the Vita though, if you'd rather have 1080p over the better implementation of those features.

@Gemuarto

You've said your piece, mate. You're even having to stretch to things like I've not played enough JRPGs (not true), or that it's not an indie (and I've never said it was). Let's leave it at that, eh? This is getting a lot of great reviews, and for a good reason. You didn't like it, and that's fine.

MadchesterManc

#30

MadchesterManc said:

@MatGrowcott Can't help but agree with the assessment of how you approach the more artistic titles out there will have an effect on how you enjoy the game. I tend to enjoy Artsy titles myself, although the oddity with this one is that its from a big publisher instead of the usual small studio's. Might have a look at a review playthrough myself for the weekend, but I may end up going with PC for now as Im spending more time than I'd like on it lately anyway

Gemuarto

#31

Gemuarto said:

@MatGrowcott But in the end, I am right. Because this will never become classic, like Outland didn't become. And because of that all your praise are as empty as this game =).

MatGrowcottStaff

#32

MatGrowcott said:

@MadchesterManc It's been made as an indie game - less than 20 people involved, which is big when you consider the humble beginnings of Minecraft but impressive when you consider the bloated mess that was Assassin's Creed 3.

It does feel a bit cheaty, to have a major publisher releasing an "indie" effort, but the game doesn't really suffer from that directly.

Gemuarto

#34

Gemuarto said:

@TOMBOY25 I'm just telling the truth. This game is not brilliant, just common game. Don't know why I am unpleasant because of that.

Gemuarto

#35

Gemuarto said:

@MatGrowcott You didn't mention Valkyrie Profile in your review, that tells a lot about your JRPG knowledge. And that game took so many from VP. Main idea, to begin with.

MatGrowcottStaff

#36

MatGrowcott said:

@Gemuarto The battle system is completely different, the mode of exploration is completely different. The only similarity is that it's on a 2D plane, and that's better explained by the fact that it's built in the same 2D engine that powered Rayman, surely?

It'd be like saying that Valkyrie Profile was terrible because EVO: Search for Eden existed before it.

get2sammybAdmin

#37

get2sammyb said:

@Gemuarto You're entitled to your opinion. It's a shame that you don't like the game. However, your arrogant approach to the discussion isn't overly flattering...

Gemuarto

#38

Gemuarto said:

@get2sammyb Why are you telling me this? And why should I care? To tell you the truth, I made some conclusions about author and don't care about this discussion or his opinion on games anymore. He was arrogant, too. It's my opinion and everyone to his own, right?

But this game is far from being instant classic or even must play. And it's a fact, not opinion. It will never become as famous as Braid. And as JRPG it is pretty medicore. It's a fact, too.

One of my friends who plays jrpg for 20 years already, told that this game is unplayable. I think so, too. Another friend told that it's a commn game and there is nothing great about it. I am a member of community of jrpg fans and nobody in that group told that game is great. And I agree. It's just another game from Ubisoft, it's not bad, but not great also. That's my opinion. And somehow, this article is really insulting for me. Maybe because I could buy bad game because of it =(.

But don't get me wrong, I think Mat is a nice guy =). And have no grudge or something against him =). But your comment, Sammy, was pointless. I really didn't plan to continue that pointless discussion. My english skills are pretty limited to properly explain my point in situation like that, anyway.

get2sammybAdmin

#39

get2sammyb said:

@Gemuarto The game is not unplayable, though, is it? You're exaggerating. It's totally fine if you dislike the game or don't agree with the review — but you're framing it like your point of view is the only one that matters.

Nevertheless, I didn't mean to come across rude.

Gemuarto

#40

Gemuarto said:

@get2sammyb Unplayable - opinion. Good - fact =). Great - opinion. This game really has some flaws as JRPG. And because of that I think that it's always be an opinion, that it's a great game and instant classic. I just thought that in reviews people always try to judge games from different points of view. I can easily call Toukiden - instant classic, but I really see it's flaws. So Mat doesn't see Child of Light flaws? Or think that they don't matter because game is cheap? OK! =)

MatGrowcottStaff

#41

MatGrowcott said:

@Gemuarto It depends what you think those flaws are.

Its "flaws" as a JRPG - and I use the word flaws very loosely - come from the fact that it's not really a full-on JRPG. The battle system is fantastic - the control you have over the active time display really is something that's never been done in an RPG before. I'd understand why you thought it lacked depth if you were just going by the amount of moves available, but that isn't really a flaw when you consider that changing that would ruin every other aspect of the system.

Price doesn't really come into this review, but scale does. We can't judge an eight hour JRPG-hybrid by the same standards as a 150 hour package. Most games in the genre are still pushing tutorials until long after the eight hour mark. Child of Light does what it does extraordinarily well, and so it deserves to be rewarded as such.

If I was arrogant, I'm sorry. I'm doing my best to try to explain why I came to the conclusions I did.

MatGrowcottStaff

#43

MatGrowcott said:

@Gemuarto The bar looks the same...? Yeah, it does. I guess there's only so many ways you can draw an interesting line. How it's used and how battle plays out is so far flung from Grandia though that, honestly, the comparison doesn't make sense.

How much of Child of Light did you actually play before you decided to say how terrible it was?

Gemuarto

#44

Gemuarto said:

@MatGrowcott Yeah, cancel system is super new idea of Ubisoft. Praise to ubisoft and their amazing book of super arty ultra original game design.

souleater

#45

souleater said:

Personally i love the game :) only i seem to be playing it too much, worried about finishing it too quick.

glen-expgaming

#46

glen-expgaming said:

@Gemuarto Sounds like you belong to a community of know it all hipsters mate. There's nothing to suggest that this game isn't enjoyable. I was sceptical at first too when I was told I had to review a game about a Faerie Princess but I had a great time with it. I think you have a problem with the review because you're not the intended audience... you're a bit of a connoisseur when it comes to JRPGs after all... When critics write reviews we try to appeal to as broad an audience as possible and its good practise to assume when we begin to write that the reader knows absolutely nothing about the subject. If this is the only JRPG you will ever play you will find it incredibly enjoyable.

@MatGrowcott Nice review, I agree with you on most things except for the difficulty of the game. I think it could benefit from presenting a greater challenge. Even on hard mode, the worst gamer I've ever met in my life (my housemate), experienced his first death at the final boss.

MatGrowcottStaff

#48

MatGrowcott said:

@glen-expgaming Difficulty is one of those things that it's hard to judge in a game like this. I agree that perhaps it could have done with a few more challenges, but at the same time I wouldn't want the experience, the world, the story, to become blocked by something that I'd need to grind to work around.

In the end I reckon they made the right choice. Too easy perhaps, but without anything that might end up being a barrier to wider enjoyment.

glen-expgaming

#52

glen-expgaming said:

@MatGrowcott I agree that there doesn't need to be a massive jump in difficulty I just would have liked to have been put to the test by bosses especially. When you think of Final Fantasy VII you can't help but remember the times when you had to level up into Ray Whinston to even have a chance against certain enemies. Do you think this kind of grind still has a place in modern gaming?

@Gemuarto you sound like a girlfriend who has crossed the line and must repent :P lol

MatGrowcottStaff

#53

MatGrowcott said:

@glen-expgaming It still has its place for sure. Not in artsy games though, nor in mainstream JRPGs. The average age of the people that played Final Fantasy VII when it first came out has to be well over 25 - generally someone of that age probably doesn't have time for a 70 hour adventure where 62 hours are spent in battle.

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