Child of Light(1)

Genre: Platformer, RPG
Year: 2014
Developed by: Ubisoft Montreal
Published by: Ubisoft
Platforms: PC, PS3, PS4, Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Switch
Feeling Like: Light as a feather

I follow Jason Schreier pretty closely. I admire the work he’s done so far. He’s a journalist in the gaming industry, and I don’t use the word “journalist” lightly; he’s not a personality that puts up a 45 minute video on the latest fad and he doesn’t resort to clickbait for views. He uncovers important stories in the industry about workplace abuse, harassment, crunch and greed. He doesn’t tread lightly, nor should he. These are crucial topics and I’m glad that he, and a few others, dedicate their time and careers to uncovering unjust practices in my own field.

One of his more infamous Tweets recently was simply “Video games are too long.”

And they are!

Seldom do I feel a game completely warrants its runtime – I often lament that a game gets too repetitive, or feels padded with fetch quests or long travel times to flesh out the experience. I’m always of the mindset that quality should take precedent over quantity and less is more. There’s obviously a fine line to walk, but whenever I say to myself “that game was too short” I usually mean it as a compliment. I wasn’t bored, I wasn’t over the combat, I wasn’t frustrated by the seemingly endless levels. It was self-contained, kept me engaged and did what it wanted to do.

Child of Light is, mercifully, a short game made by a big studio and I’d like more of that, please.

Child of Light(2)
Child of Light – a game that looks so nice, I had to show an intro screen twice

My philosophy on games that aren’t 40+ hour epics, or collaborations of short stories is that there’s less opportunity to screw it up. You can’t drag out the tale beyond what it should be – you literally can’t. There’s a limited amount of space. The trick is to make us care, quickly.

Child of Light does that. It’s a unique looking title. It very much has a fairy tale feel, with whimsical dialogue and visuals that appear to have been plucked right out of a story book. It’s impressive how the developers managed to make the adventure FEEL big, all within 12 hours.

I enjoyed the turn-based combat very much, though it’s a gameplay style that you wouldn’t expect when you first look at the game. You’d think platformer maybe, or just a traditional 2d action game, or even a Metroidvania. Turn based RPG battle systems are among my favorite; I get to take my time, soak in the characters and their style of attacking at my leisure. The music was comforting more than thrilling; since I got a ton of opportunity to listen to it, I always felt at ease, even in a tough encounter. You can also interrupt enemy attacks with smart decision making. Weaker attacks deal less damage, but they have a quicker cast time and maybe you should interrupt that enemy before they take their swing? There’s rarely a time when you’re button mashing in combat. It’s a winner the whole way.

Child of Light(3)
*Chef kiss*

As usual with RPGs, I keep coming back to the music. Everything you need to know about Child of Light can be derived from Aurora’s Theme. It’s striking to me how many memories flood back with this tune – it’s everything the game tries to be: comforting, sad, whimsical, beautiful and nostalgic.

A few minor nitpicks. The rhyming scheme in the dialogue was cute at first, but I feel the story and characters were limited by it since it exists throughout the entire game. A pity, but hardly a huge knock against Child of Light. Hey, at least they tried something creative!

The combat was so good, I wanted more than a two person party. Abilities start to really have some weight to them, and casting debuffs on all enemies, or buffing your own party felt like a turning point each time I used them. I can only imagine how visually appealing a whole party of Aurora and her friends would look like, but I had to settle for two.

I have to go back to the combat one more time. The fact that you can control your little sprite dude with the right stick and use it to slow down enemies, or heal your party just adds to the interactivity. No fights are boring, there’s lots to do and to consider.

Child of Light(5)
Environments are a feast for the eyes

I’m a sucker for flying in video games, so it’s no wonder Child of Light is this high up on the 500. You gain the ability to fly almost right away, with no limitations or stamina bar. You’re in the air, you can stay in the air. You can go anywhere the game will let you. It encourages exploration right out of the gate and I couldn’t possibly move on until I’d searched out every nook and corner for potential secrets or boss encounters.

I’m of two minds here. Child of Light is pretty high up on the 500, but also Child of Light should be higher. I give myself deadlines on re-arranging the 500, otherwise I’ll be re-ranking games until I go insane. Looking ahead, this is definitely an entry I screwed up a bit on. It should be higher.

However, that may also be a sign that I’m making solid progress. If each post is from a game that I admire, had a blast and start having a hard time justifying why it’s not higher on the list, it just means there are increasingly great games to come. Most of them were longer, or had a bigger budget, or were more notorious than Child of Light. But very few of them have the same charm, or heart.

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