A turn-based RPG very much in the vein of classic Japanese titles such of Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger, Child of Light puts players into the dream-world of Princess Aurora, the Austrian princess who’s tale in this game was clearly inspired by that of the classic Sleeping Beauty. As the young woman falls into her death-like sleep, you are transported into the wonderful world of Lemuria, where players must find a way to escape this dream-state and return to Aurora’s family, including her sisters and father.
World exploration is done in 2D as a side-scrolling adventure and is very much an open plane for players to explore, though there is a designated path the story takes. At times the map can be a bit abstract, and it becomes fairly easy to get lost in Lemuria, but the ability to fly around the game world is unlocked very early in the game and makes traversing as Aurora quite swift, even when trying to figure out which direction to head. As you visit the many different locales and meet the charming cast of characters and different races that belong to the world of Lemuria, Aurora begins to make friends that will eventually join her party and the real RPG elements of the game begin.
The story within Child of Light is unique and endearing in the way it is delivered. As this is obviously a fairy-tale brought to vibrant life, it only seems fitting that every piece of dialogue, whether it be delivered via text bubble or cut-scene narration is told through poetic rhyme. It’s true that many of the rhymes are rudimentary at best, but it’s clear what the writers were going for, and I feel that they succeeded in presenting a thoroughly enjoyable dialect for players to consume. Of particular note is Rubella, the circus jester that becomes the first character to join your party. All of her dialogue does it’s best to rhyme, but she falls just short of it every time, always to be corrected by another character. I laughed more than once at her inability to fit the theme of the game, and it was a nice touch by the writers to acknowledge that this story is basically being told as if it were from a children’s book.
As for the combat in Child of Light, it doesn’t stray far from JRPG tradition. A pure turn-based RPG with a slight twist. As each battle commences, party members as well as enemies all appear as icons on a timeline at the bottom of the screen. This timeline represents the amount of time left until each character has a chance to act, with different attacks and spells having the chance to slow down enemies, freeze them on the timeline or even set them back just as they were about to act. In addition to normal attacks, Aurora’s companion throughout the the game, the firefly elemental Igniculus, can be controlled either via a second player controller or simply using the right thumbstick to either heal your party members or to slow down a single enemy, so long as his power bar still has some juice left in it. It all combines for an engaging combat system that will keep you on your toes, even if the game doesn’t pose much of a challenge throughout. Indeed certain fights might have taken a long time I only ever failed in a fight once.
That doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of the game, though. Much of that is thanks to what I feel is the perfect length decided upon for Child of Light. Spanning just around 10 hours for a fairly complete play-through, Child of Light never feels like it’s overstaying it’s welcome, and gives players plenty of content, especially considering the value of it’s price, a mere $15 at launch. The only thing I felt the game lacked was a dedication to voice-work. As has become custom in almost every RPG in recent years, certain scenes seem to be selected at random to have recorded dialogue, while much of the game is left to be a simple text box players must read themselves. Not a huge problem, but it would be nice, especially for a 10 hour game, to have recorded dialogue for everything, though the cost cutting measures are clearly evident, here.
Child of Light is a joy to play for anyone looking for an engaging and charming RPG to play. It has plenty of heart, a fun and unique combat system, wonderful visuals and a certain whimsical appeal that speaks to the heart of it’s players. The added beauty of the Ubiart engine is simply a bonus by the end, and Child of Light certainly has me more closely following Valiant Heart’s release schedule, which happens to be in late June, for those interested.