Child of Light is a shining beacon of hope in the sea of recent mature-themed video game releases. It offers a colorful tapestry of gorgeous visuals and captivating storytelling you would expect from a fable of old, with gameplay that challenges and rewards those who take the time to plumb its depths. Add to all of this content and dialog everyone in the family can enjoy and Child of Light becomes a game that has broad appeal and the potential to set trends for the future.
The first thing players will notice about Child of Light is how beautiful it looks, like a vibrant watercolor painting come to life. The characters and creatures could have jumped off the pages of a child’s book of fables. In an age of video games striving to create more realistic 3D graphics that push the limits of current hardware, Child of Light stands out.
Another charming quality of Child of Light is the dialog. It rhymes. Like a Shakespearean play, every line of dialog follows iambic pentameter or other rhyming style. There is very little voice acting in the game, so most of the dialog appears as text, which reinforces the impression players are reading a storybook.
Humor in general is hard to pull off in storytelling, and it’s even harder in video games. Child of Light manages to be subtly witty and funny through its rhymes and context. One character, a jester and singer named Rubella, never fully grasps how to find the proper word to finish a rhyme and characters around her are constantly offering corrections. Her brother, Tristis, also is a jester in the circus who claims to be a comedian but instead has a demeanor more fitting for an Edgar Allen Poe story.
Child of Light’s plot takes place in two worlds, with the young princess Aurora at its center. Like the Wizard of Oz, the game’s story involves a young innocent girl traumatized by catastrophic events who finds herself in a fantastical land accompanied by outlandish new friends. Unlike Oz’s Dorothy, Aurora is taken from her world by a chill in the night, and she never wakes up. Her father, the king, soon loses heart and falls into deep despair. It sounds very tragic, but before players have time to take this in, Aurora awakens in the magical land of Lemuria. Together with her new friends, Aurora must stop the evil queen that has taken over Lemuria and find a way home to save her father.
For players unfamiliar with the wide array of gameplay mechanics used in RPGs (role-playing games), Child of Light’s battles may be a sticking point. The fighting takes a turn-based style, with the action pausing when one character or enemy gets a turn to select their next move. As in a game of chess, this requires strategy and forethought. Unlike games for which players only need quick reflexes, Child of Light encourages players to think before they act and pay attention to who’s turn will be next to best utilize the characters they have in the fight. All of this can make the game a little overwhelming and frustrating at times.
One bonus aspect of playing Child of Light is an additional player can control Aurora’s firefly companion, Iniculus. The second player can help during battles by slowing opponents and healing allies.
The game is rated appropriate for everyone aged 10 and older. It contains fantasy violence and a few instances of alcohol and tobacco use. Child of Light is available on Xbox, Playstation platforms, and PC, as well as the Wii U.
Child of Light has already captivated gamers and critics alike. Wholesome games like this are a delight in an industry plagued by violence and in-your-face sexuality. Hopefully its success will encourage other game developers to set aside prurient thrills for more tales of innocent fun and adventure.