Before you jump to in to point out the irony of a dad picking a game about a child to talk about.. it’s all just coincidence it ended up this way.. The daily commute lends itself well to playing on the switch and you can get both this and Valiant Hearts on a double pack cartridge and at the time of writing Child of Light is under £4 on the Nintendo eShop.
But what about the actual game?
Well Child of Light isn’t new by any means, while it’s Switch port is fairly recent it’s been around since the previous generation, being made off the same game engine (though heavily adjusted) that the recent Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends came from. Just like those two it also still holds up visually looking very much like a living watercolour the entire time adding a very whimsical feel to the adventure as a whole.
This is a game that I want to describe as baby’s first JRPG, yes I’m aware that it’s a French production and the term it a bit condescending to the tone of the game and craftsmanship placed into it and I did say ‘I want to’ for a reason; it’s deceptive. The entire story for the most part is told in whimsy rhyming couplets which you might find a little grating at it’s most forced, but the language used can be complex, such as the era the game is set in. While the entire adventure takes place in the fictional mirror realm of Lemuria our heroine is from historic Austria and architecture and design includes elements of that era mixed in with the fantastical at every turn.
The pace of the game is also very slow, which again points to a simple JRPG, but it’s not the case; possibly falling into slow and steady wins the race territory. You can slow enemies in battle, curse around at your own pace and I’m uncertain but I don’t remember any character ever actually running in the game (side stepped by an early power bestowed on Aurora allowing her to fly) It takes the game from being a platformer into being a 2D adventure no longer constrained from being a simple left to right affair. It’s perhaps too complex and slow paced to be for a younger audience.. which its lovely to look at it can be hard to hold your attention, even my initial play attempts years ago I didn’t find the temperament to power through to completion, or even 50% of the games main story.
At its heart the story is about the growth of Aurora as a princess and heralded ‘Child of Light’, though not a term used in the game itself the title it barely subtext by the games end. Aurora begins the game dying, waking up in the fantastical Lemuria, home to all sorts of creatures including your secondary companion for the game Igniculus; a small elemental who you control in tandem with Aurora to effect the world in different ways and also simplify the game in many ways while also adding depth… again child like while hiding much depth for the older more tactical player. Aurora journeys for a way home, the mirror she arrived through needs to be travelled back to after Aurora gains the power of the Sun, Moon and Stars. Your macguffin’s for the game though each when obtaining to represent growth for Aurora as well as a significant visual change or gameplay addition.
While Child of Light is an adventure and the ‘text’ of the game has you travel, find companions, help the downtrodden creatures you find who are oppressed by a dark queen, the sub text is family. On one side of the mirror Aurora’s father is dying of a broken heart with the loss of Aurora which you glimpse on several occasions through the story, the Dark Queen is her step Mother and her step sisters show up as both friend and foe to help and hinder in the latter half of the game. While Aurora’s moth er is dead she is alluded and I don’t think I need to spoil late game story developments but you’ll probably worth of the relation and connections of everyone not too far into the game.
This isn’t a review so I’m not about to run down game play mechanics, but the battle system in Child of Light is what the make or break feature of the game for me in regards to the age of children to play it (You can expect sections like this as a part of these [not quite] reviews because I’m looking at every game as to could be shared or played with my kids.. of which the oldest at the time or writing is approaching 4) But the slow drawn out pace means that perhaps a child’s attention despite being a 3+ game isn’t going to be held, long drawn out sections of text aside, the battle isn’t overly entertaining or flashy but keeps consistent with the whimsical quality the rest of the game has.
However Child of Light actually has co-op, where one person can take independent control of Igniculus, saving a lot of 1 player multitasking and allowing an older player to perhaps play with a younger one in a nice harmony; it’s something I think i’ll be trying myself in the future.
Ultimately I don’t think Child of Light is going to be a game I return to over the years, it’s simple and fairly short for an RPG, but it’s also enjoyable and will stay in your memory for a colour cast of characters, a beautiful world and a nice tale of growth that’s ultimately a tragedy that ends on a hopeful note with a grown child who’s learned how to do everything she needs by herself while making friends and a new family while also be a Princess to her people and eventually Queen
You should play it!
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