REVIEW: Child of Light
By Stu Horsfield Child of Light is a 2D, hand drawn, platformer/adventure RPG from Ubisoft, with the story taking the form of an epic poem. You play as Aurora, a child who, after falling deathly ill, finds herself in an otherworldly realm called Lemuria. In an attempt to return to your grieving father you battle your way across this world, gaining allies and skills and all that good RPG stuff.
As someone who doesn’t play a lot of games, this appealed to me as it was offering something novel and unique. It takes a lot of risks with its unique style and unconventional story, which is surprising for the studio that seems quite comfortable bringing out sequel after sequel to its established games like Assassin’s Creed, Batman, and Far Cry. It’s great to see a big studio taking risks like this, and judging from other reviews, it had likely paid off.
All the dialogue (mostly text based), as I mentioned before, is written in rhyme. This is one case where taking risks didn’t pay off. While it starts off being charming and adding weight to the developing story, it can sometimes be irritating and distracting. A lot of the lines feel very forced and unnatural, and break the emotional flow of an otherwise solemn and engaging plot. Not to bring it down too much, there are points where they absolutely nail it and it works great, but there are instances where, like with the character Rubella who can never finish her rhymes properly and gets corrected by the other characters after EVERY DAMN LINE, it quickly becomes obnoxious and annoying. Since this is the Sex issue, it’s appropriate to mention the critique of gender roles in both fairy tales and video games that is so fundamental to this game. There are strong fairy tale elements to the story, but a lot of the traditional tropes are turned on their head. The stranded princess isn’t waiting for her prince to save her, she finds herself in trouble and although apprehensive, she grabs a giant sword to fight her own damn way out! In fact, there is a noticeable lack of any kind of stereotypical ‘male saviour’ character throughout the game. This is definitely not your standard fairy tale, it sticks out from canon in the same way Frozen did for Disney. In fact, there are way too many similarities between Child of Light and Frozen to go into here, but it’s safe to say that fans of one will likely enjoy the other.
It is so refreshing to see a game with a female protagonist that isn’t massively sexualised. I know there are notable exceptions to this, but there seems to be this assumption amongst game developers that if you’re going to base a game around a female they have to be somewhere on the spectrum from supermodel to absurd leather-bound gravity defying adolescent fantasy for the young, male-dominated gamer market (which is a myth in itself) to take interest. In avoiding this trap, the game allows for a depth of character (for Aurora, and the other characters, male and female) and a much deeper connection to the themes of the story that in other games can be so easily clouded by overt sexuality.
This game is, above all other things, beautiful. If you’re a fan of visually stunning art-based games like Okami or Journey, or old Japanese RPG games like the Final Fantasy series or Secret of Mana, you will love Child of Light. It combines the most salient stylistic features of these games and produces something that evokes nostalgia whilst feeling totally original, in a way that is elegant and graceful.