The first thing you notice about Child of Light is the graphical style. Built using Ubisoft’s UbiArt engine, it looks painstakingly hand-drawn and artfully inked, and unlike anything since 2012’s Journey. The second thing you notice is that almost everyone speaks in rhyming couplets, all the time.
The story is introduced by a poem which explains how your character, Aurora, falls asleep and can’t wake up. Your mission is to guide Aurora safely through the dream-kingdom of Lemuria, which sadly does not contain any lemurs.
It’s a nice story told in a fairly gentle, slightly Japanese style, and peopled with some fun characters. You have a sword, but it’s a blood-free brawl. It’s a platform game that grows into an RPG as you add abilities and upgrades and recruit more sidekicks, and an extra dimension is added when you earn the ability to fly.
Graphics aside, the big surprise is the combat. It’s turn-based and bloodless, which doesn’t exactly sound like a recipe for a thrilling fight, but it uses timing to keep things interesting: in between attacks, each combatant’s icon races along a timing bar, and the first combatant to hit the start of the ‘Cast’ section of the timing bar gets to attack next.
You have to be able to cast your attack before an enemy reaches the Cast section, so you have to make quick judgements about what spells to use, and make strategic decisions - some characters are faster or slower, and you can slow some enemies down using Igniculus, a small talking blue flame who you can move around the screen or hand over to a second player for co-op fun.
This system means battles are about creating a pause in which you can use your stronger attacks, which might sound a bit complex, but it becomes intuitive after 20 minutes of play, and makes for surprisingly dynamic, exciting combat. It might not have the endless fart gags of South Park: The Stick of Truth, but it’s a smarter, more skillful combat system overall.
Because we’re not 10, we’re not sure how this clever combat will go down with Child of Light’s youthful target audience, but we’re going to have a lot of fun with it.