Child of Light Vita Review
Growing Up Fast
My first attempt to play Child of Light ran into the massive stumbling block of Ubisoft’s infuriating uPlay program. Try though I might, that aggravating software would not let me play the game on PC. Now that I’ve actually experienced what Child of Light has to offer thanks to playing it on the PlayStation Vita several years later, the game is indeed worthy of considerable kudos. Too bad Ubisoft’s aggressive DRM programs didn’t make that easier to experience.
Aurora is a girl in Victorian-era Austria who doesn’t consider herself exceptional, yet has found herself in circumstances that qualify as such. She has awakened in the land of Lemuria, a realm inhabited by numerous fantastical beings that is under threat by the forces of darkness. Queen Nox seeks to extinguish all light in a bid to let her element of darkness reign supreme, and Aurora proves unexpectedly adept at fighting back. Getting back to her ailing father is of utmost importance to Aurora, and she is highly reluctant to accept the mantle of savior that Lumeria’s citizens wish to bestow.
Child of Light is presented in the fashion of a children’s storybook, and this is partly expressed by having all dialogue in rhyming verse. Sometimes the rhythm of sentences is questionable, but the effort is still highly effective at transforming text into something out of the ordinary. Aurora’s characterization is also strong, showing a believable arc that results in personality change by the end. Her companions are not granted much in the way of development but manage to show distinct personalities even so, aided by the use of short interactions appearing around new events in the tale.
When navigating Lemuria, Aurora at first appears to be moving in the style of a platformer. She moves around a 2D landscape maneuvering and jumping past obstacles, though controlling her jumps is rather stiff. The introductory chapter gives way to Aurora learning to fly, which she can freely do around the landscapes. Once flight is available the controls become very effective, for her air time is not constrained by anything except environmental hazards such as wind. The well-constructed landscapes of Lemuria reward exploring everywhere, producing plenty of worthwhile things to find just off the main path.
Also found while moving about are enemies, which are battled in a method that owes more to Grandia than to any 2D platformer. Rather than moving, battle participants engage using turn-based rules that place great emphasis upon how long actions require to complete. Even a simple physical attack is not instantaneous, and can be canceled if hit before taking the action. A large meter at the bottom of the screen shows where every participant is in terms of preparing to take actions, allowing the player to plan which target should get priority. Enemies can and will take advantage of the ability to cancel player actions, requiring vigilance all the time.
The player has an option not available to the computer in the form of Igniculus, Aurora’s sprite companion. Igniculus floats around the screen separately from battle participants, and has several helpful functions available. He can slow an enemy down by shining brightly in its face, something extremely useful against dangerous adversaries. He can also take advantage of the flowering plants found on every battleground, as those flower blossoms will recharge his own energy and provide a partial recovery to the player’s side. If recovery is urgently needed for a specific character, Igniculus can expend his energy healing instead of inhibiting a foe. No matter what is currently affecting the battle party, Igniculus is free to move about as the player wishes in a helpful fashion, and his actions are independent of the turn-based constraints limiting everyone else.
The major constraint on Child of Light‘s interface comes when trying to maneuver Aurora and Igniculus simultaneously. There aren’t many occasions on which this is demanded, but moving two sprites with each analog stick is a dexterous feat. Otherwise controls are effective and free of confusion. Characters gain points for use on statistic enhancements or new abilities, with the player free to choose which of several progression paths to follow. Inventory use is also clean and efficient, displaying all necessary information and not having anything too cumbersome.
Normal difficulty presents enough of a challenge to make combat require attention, but the abundance of healing methods and an autosave function make sure it’s never too arduous. Players desiring more dangerous encounters can increase the difficulty at any time, though there are only two challenge levels in the game. A good variety of opponents will appear throughout the adventure to keep proceedings from feeling stale. Child of Light errs on the side of brevity in its experience, and can be completed in less than fifteen hours even while going through optional quests. Its choice of length is a wise one though, as the relatively short length does not introduce staleness via excessive repetition.
In keeping with its storybook text and setting, Child of Light looks very much like something animated from the basis of an illustrated children’s tale. The style is not stunning on a technical level but is impressive to see in motion. While there is a relative lack of bright colors in the various images, this subdued palette is thematically appropriate to a land in which light is in short supply. Lemuria also hosts a wide variety of locales to keep the look from becoming overly familiar. Child of Light‘s musical accompaniment is mostly atmospheric and complementary to the onscreen action, without offering many memorable melodies. Its overall sound palette is effective at evoking the intended mood without standing out much.
Having an entire playable character be separately purchased DLC highlights Ubisoft’s corporate avarice more than anything positive, especially when it translates into the character having no mandatory scenes throughout the narrative. Ubisoft’s DLC also introduces considerable annoyance when starting Child of Light, as each piece purchased has to be installed separately. Most DLC consists of items and equipment, making the extra purchases incredibly hard to justify.
It took an unusual amount of effort for me to finally play Child of Light, but the game lingers fondly in my memory now that it finally happened. This is a unique and affecting title that is worth seeking out by any who haven’t tried it before. Just be prepared for Ubisoft not to make playing the game an easy task.
Fascinating and expressive world
Unique setting and execution
DLC not implemented in the best way
Controlling multiple things concurrently