I’m not a typical fan of the RPG gaming genre. I often find that they demand far too much of my time, and it’s rare that I find myself ever truly invested in the story or gameplay they present me with. However, Child of Light is a glorious exception, and I literally loved every single second I spent with, and really didn’t want to see it end.
What made Child of Light so special to me wasn’t the gameplay though, but the story. Taking cues from many of our most beloved fairy-tale adventures, Child of Light embraces the most well known cliches and stereotypes from the genre and turns them completely on their head, offering up a charming and emotionally driven story that felt like a breath of fresh air.
With its beautifully hand drawn graphics, Child of Light possesses an atmospheric and fantastical landscape that is both lively and magical. The game tasks you, as fiery-haired princess Aurora, with freeing the magical land of Lemuria from the control of the evil ruler known to the people only as the Dark Queen, who may or may not have had something to do with stealing Aurora from her father and trapping her in Lemuria.
While the premise itself is reminiscent of almost every fairy-tale that has ever been told, Child of Light‘s story plays out like a loving homage to the child inside all of us, and wonderfully incorporates the themes and motifs we know and love with some new, fresh ideas that all come together in the end in a very special way. Even after the credits rolled, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Even with a minimum of actual spoken dialogue, Child of Light somehow manages to create a cast of characters that all feel strikingly unique in their own right. Whether you’re speaking with a circus clown without a sense of humor or a prideful mouse intent on becoming a successful businessman, the game never fails to put Aurora alongside someone just as charming and likable as herself.
This is Aurora’s story above all else though, and it’s with her character that Child of Light managed to really move me. Since the game averages about 12 hours in length, probably more if you explore the world as I did, the plot moves at a satisfying pace and consistently adds and develops not only Aurora and her backstory, but also clearly establishes that her coming-of-age story is one very much worth being a part of.
However, with such a large and diverse cast, Child of Light can feel a little crowded at times, which does result in a handful of characters getting little to no depth beyond their basic personality. Yet, it never seemed to bother me that much, probably because there’s so much else going on that even the two-dimensional characters are fun to watch Aurora and her friends interact with.
Of course, her many friends can do much more than just provide delightful comic relief, as each and every one of them bring their own unique talents to the number of combat scenarios you will inevitably find yourself in. For example, the gentle dwarf Finn possesses a powerful mastery of magic, while the fierce Óengus, an ancient warrior in search of redemption, is a powerhouse who can perform devastating strikes against the enemy with his razor sharp claws.
The combat itself, while simple in premise, is actually a highly rewarding and exciting system based entirely around timing and precision. In combat, each and every combatant is restricted to a timeline on the bottom of the screen that indicates who gets to strike next, but the complexity comes in from the fact that any hit landed on either you or an enemy will set them back on the timeline and vulnerable to all kinds of attacks.
This back-and-forth style of combat demanded that I was always on my toes, carefully watching for the chance to either interrupt an enemy mid-attack or defend myself from a devastating blow. This created for a powerful sense of tension in combat, as I was practically forced to always be thinking two steps ahead, and it left me feeling like a brilliant strategist at the end of every successful encounter.
With every new enemy encountered, who each come with their own specific strengths and weaknesses, I had to rethink my strategy and explore different characters to find out just what approach would best guarantee my victory. This is never more evident than in the game’s amazing boss fights, which pit you against towering enemies that are both terrifying to look at and exciting to confront.
Even with the many horrible monsters you’ll face in Child of Light, the game never once loses hold of its fairytale feeling, as Lemuria is not only a world full of hidden secrets and challenges, but thanks to Aurora’s gift of flight bestowed upon her early in the game, you’re given complete freedom to explore the world in any way you deem fit.
I may not have always known where I was going, or even if it was where I was supposed to be going, but I really didn’t cared, as searching every nook and cranny of Lemuria’s beautifully detailed world was just as rewarding as anything else the game offered. There’s a sense of warmth and adventure imbued in every aspect of Child of Light, and it made for an enchanting and powerful journey from beginning to end.
One of my few complaints, however, is that you’re restricted to only ever having two party members active at once during combat, and with such a large cast it made seamlessly swapping out characters in the middle combat a little more cumbersome than I would’ve liked. It didn’t affect me too much, but did become a hindrance in the latter sections of the game when juggling your party becomes an absolute priority.
As someone who is far from experienced with the RPG genre, Child of Light gave me everything I wanted, but I still can’t help but wish there was a little more meat to it. While the story ran at the perfect length, I would’ve loved to have been given the chance to just keep playing, and while there is a New Game+ mode, there’s no real incentive to play it all the way through again, which is a shame, because I would’ve jumped at the chance to do so.
Still, none of that stopped me from loving almost every minute of Child of Light. There was always something for me to enjoy, and even though I would’ve loved to have seen more from the game’s world, something I hope to see from a possible sequel, there was not a single moment throughout my fifteen-hour experience that did anything but wow me.
Child of Light is one of the best fairy tale adventures I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of. With its wildly colorful cast of characters, enchanting storytelling, and consistently exciting combat, it manages to be an RPG experience that feels both classic and original. While it may not have the depth some diehard RPG fans are craving, it is nevertheless a magical journey that is very much worth your time and your money.