Visuals – 9.5/10
It doesn’t take a game analyst spouting out big words to see that Child of Light is beautiful to behold. Ubisoft Montreal has done it again, and has improved their already impressive UbiArt engine. The game is gorgeous, with fluid character motions displaying individual limbs acting separately (creating a more life-like feel to them).
The character designs and execution are extremely well done, adding personality and life to each one. In fact, the only thing that matches the character designs and artwork are the landscapes filling the screen. There were plenty of moments when I simply stopped and just examined my surroundings. And what was even more interesting is that I would find small additions hiding in the background that would immerse me even deeper into this created world named Lumeria. An example of this was during my visit to the sea within the storyline. As I was gliding above the water, just exploring the area, fog drifted by in tufts in a dreary, overcast sky. I stopped to really look at the background and just see the depth that had been created. Suddenly I realized: there was an island in the background that appeared to have an eye! I started to move Aurora around on the screen and noticed that the eye followed where Aurora went. That island was actually a creature sitting in wait, watching the world go by. This impressed me greatly; to see the level of detail Ubisoft put into not only the characters, but the actual world in which these character moved around in, amazed me. The game is built upon a dream-like world, and the artwork reflects that. Simply put, playing this game is not only an interactive experience, but a sensory experience as well.
Audio – 9.25/10
If the visuals didn’t affect your senses in any way, the music is sure to get through. The score that drives Child of Light is piano driven, switching between fantastical wonder to melancholy fairy tale. As soon as the start menu appears on the screen, you will understand what I’m talking about: the music accentuates the game and, in a way, brings more flourish to the visuals.
Music is reused often throughout the game, such as within general battles or the running theme song at different points in the story. Typically, though, each area has a different theme that plays in the background as you explore Lumeria.
As far as audio goes, Ubisoft upheld the sensory appeal of the game by adding various noises and sounds to give even more life to this game world. At one point I was crossing a plain – of sorts – and the audio died down, mimicking a very open, empty area. At another point in the story, I entered into a bustling town upon a “mountain,” hearing chatter and discussions mixed with the area music, giving the town a very real feel to it, like the townspeople were truly walking around bartering with each other within their daily lives.
In addition, when an enemy would see Aurora, it would release a sound signifying that they were about to pounce. This would help to avoid fights, if that was desired. Overall, the music and audio add to the life within Lumeria, rather than take away from it.
Gameplay – 8/10
Gameplay doesn’t live up to the same standard as the visuals and music, but it is nowhere near terrible, or even bad. Players traverse Lumeria in side-scrolling, platformer fashion, so it is fairly straight forward. Go left or right on the screen, depending on where the story is taking you. Where the gameplay shines is within exploration and the fighting system.
Exploration is a key part of the game; gathering loot and upgrading your various characters is an important gameplay factor. This would be very limited if it weren’t for the fact that, towards the beginning, Aurora is granted the ability to fly around, adding more space to explore and uncover Lumeria’s secrets. Nt only does exploring reward you with benefits for customization of characters, but it also adds to – you guessed it – the living world of Lumeria. Flying high and getting caught in a strong wind, or floating just above the sea waters really adds to the experience. I found myself flying all over the place, looking for items, side quests, or confessions (pieces of paper written by a mysterious person that help to flesh out the world of Lumeria even further) floating around in hidden areas.
The other aspect to gameplay lies in the unique semi turn-based fighting system. When players engage an enemy (which they can choose to do so), a meter appears on the bottom screen which indicates the time when a character can choose their attack and actually attack. If a character is hit while within the range of choosing the attack and actually attacking, they get “interrupted” and pushed back on the timeline. The player has various options to choose from: using an item on a friendly character, attacking an enemy, defending, or running. In addition to attacking, each character can be upgraded and given new/stronger abilities to use within battles. The battle system is a fresh way to play, and I truly appreciated it; it is an excellent way to introduce someone into traditional RPG gameplay without boring them to tears. Also, boss battles really shine and push the player to really strategize on the fly. This combination creates for interesting, extremely fun battles that are very entertaining.
The actual amount of gameplay within Child of Light is decent for a $15 game: I finished the game in about 15 hours, with just a few things left to finish. I explored the map, but didn’t go overboard. I chose battles frequently, but not every time. I found all side quests, but didn’t stray too far from the main storyline while doing so. It is a good blend of main story and added elements that will give the average gamer between 12-16 hours of gameplay, depending on how much exploration is done.
However great Child of Light is, there are still a couple drawbacks: tedium at points and usage of the GamePad. Firstly, I have to address that though the world of Lumeria is displayed as a vibrant, living world, there were a few moments of boredom that crept into the gameplay. These moments were due to the simplistic nature of the general mechanics: exploring the world of Lumeria by either going left, right, or up. Mix this with some fairly long periods between key story elements or boss battles, and you have a small flaw in an otherwise excellent game. Secondly, the GamePad isn’t used other than mimicking the TV, thus producing off-TV play. Otherwise, that is about it. It’s a step above how Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze utilized the GamePad, but a very small one. They could’ve really utilized the GamePad within battles, adding to the already unique fighting mechanics, but once again the developer dropped the ball. Other than these two misses,
Entertainment Factor – 7.5/10
The story within Child of Light is a good one, but not a great one. From the opening dialogue, I was hooked by the depression-tainted fairy tale of Aurora, the Child of Light. The story unfolds as Aurora meets characters from all the different regions within Lumeria, each with a plight of their own that Aurora can help with. What keeps the story alive, instead of floundering and becoming stagnant, is the fantasy-based nature it upholds. This fantastical storytelling keeps the game afloat, when it could’ve easily sunk. However, the periods between storyline developments is where the tedious gameplay, which I spoke about earlier, grows into a flaw. The ending to the story, and the final boss battle are also very rushed and seem a little out of place, as if the developers ran out of time and had to finish the game immediately. There is limited online capabilities, all of which really rely on creating a U Play account (basically you can gift things to friends). Also, re-playability isn’t really a factor: I finished the game and I am not drawn to play it again immediately. Though I can move up to a harder difficulty, I think I will be waiting a little while before I play the game again.
Something else I wanted to really point out about the story is the lead character role. The game’s protagonist is a lady, and a young one at that. When she first picks up her sword, she cannot even hold it up for long. The sword itself is about her size, and the animations really show this. Now, Ubisoft could’ve kept going along with this scenario, creating a character that sort of stumbled her way across this new landscape. But they didn’t; in fact, they went the opposite way. I thought the fact that a young girl was leading a band of rag tag characters across Lumeria, fighting off evil was truly impressive. It’s not like we’ve had a female protagonist before (ie – Silent Hill 3, anyone?), but what Child of Light does well is portray Aurora as a CAPABLE female protagonist. She only seems defenseless for the first few minutes of the game, then she becomes a force to be reckoned with. In fact, I can only remember a few times when I pulled her out of a battle, only because I was somewhat forced to due to the nature of the battle. And even the story reflects her strong will and her journey into becoming a young woman. This is, by far, the most important and strongest part of the story.
All in all, Child of Light is a game worth picking up on the eShop, despite its few flaws. I recommend getting this game and experiencing another successful effort from the folks over at Ubisoft Montreal.
Overall – 8.5/10