Ubisoft Montreal might have made its name with Far Cry 3 and Assassin’s Creed games, but its latest effort is the polar opposite - a pretty 2D fairytale adventure.
The heroine is Aurora, an Austrian princess whose soul has been transported to the magical kingdom of Lemuria. Woe has befallen this fantastical world ever since the Black Queen stole the sun, the moon and the stars, and if Aurora is to ever get back to the land of apple strudel and Mozart, she has to save the kingdom. So Aurora sets out on a role-playing adventure through this mythical world, recruiting companions along the way as she seeks to return the sun, moon and stars to the skies.
The visuals are the most striking thing about Child of Light. It uses the same tech as Rayman Legends to render Lemuria in soft watercolours and the result is as imaginative as it is beautiful.
The backdrops are further brought to life with gusts of winds and shadowy creatures moving along the horizon, but while the world itself is stunning, the characters and enemies roaming Lemuria are more simplistic, although Aurora’s swishing red hair gives her plenty of personality.
Rhymes and more rhymes
In keeping with the fairytale vibe and the team’s desire to create a game parents and their children can play together, the story has been written so that it rhymes. That starts out charming but the constant stream of moon-spoon and stairs-airs couplets soon grates.
It’s not just about personal taste, though - the rhyming also warps the dialogue so that it’s often a bit vague vague and leaves you with little idea as to what you’re supposed to do next.
For the most part travelling around Lemuria’s 2D world is largely about getting from A to B, but the sprawling kingdom has plenty of hidden surprises and treasures for those prepared to look.
There are a few puzzles, too, most of which are solved with the help of Aurora’s firefly companion, which can be controlled by a second player and used to heal characters or blind enemies. But the core of the game is battling the beasts that roam the land.
Those battles are an appealing refinement of Final Fantasy’s active battle system. The bar at the bottom of the screen is key. Icons of each combatant race along it and when they reach the red zone that character can choose an action such as attack or use magic. Some actions are slower to perform than others and if a character gets hit before reaching the zone’s end the action fails. This makes for engaging clashes in which you’re always weighing up whether that slow-to-cast spell is worth the gamble.
In keeping with its goal of being a game that parents and their children can enjoy together, Child of Light isn’t particularly challenging. Level ups rain down like wedding confetti and it’s possible to get to the end without being defeated once in battle.
That won’t please the RPG hardcore who will probably also be offended by the shallowness of the skill trees and crafting. Most of the skill upgrades are minor stat increases and the crafting of gems to enhance weapons feels half-hearted as if it’s only here because it’s expected in a RPG. Those less concerned with the usual RPG stat juggling won’t care.
Child of Light verdict
Child of Light is gorgeous and the battle system is the game design equivalent of fine art, but the goal of creating a game parents and children can play together means that those looking for more RPG depth will be a bit disappointed.
The rhyming dialogue is also very much an acquired taste, probably one that only Care Bears possess.
Nonetheless, the option of putting a second player in charge of Aurora’s firefly makes this a great game for parents and kids to play together.