Lightchild: a game review

My goal this year was to read more books: never did I imagine one of my video game goals would feel like reading a storybook the whole way through.

I’ve always loved fantasy role-playing games. Final Fantasy? Definitely. Tales of Symphonia? One of my favorite titles. Ever. The Legend of Zelda? Check.

Here’s the problem: RPGs are generally long games, and aside from Zelda’s Breath of the Wild and Skyrim, it’s been a long time since I’ve managed to get deep enough into an RPG to finish it.

Not so with Ubisoft’s Child of Light.

I began playing about a month ago, I suppose, but with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate released on December 7, it’s no surprise I set aside Child of Light for a while. When I got home on New Year’s Day, picking it back up on my Nintendo Switch was an almost immediate action.

The story follows a young girl who’s fallen into a coma and wakes up in a magical world. Think Sleeping Beauty meets the Wizard of Oz. The first thing that struck me about the story was how lyrical it was–every line of dialogue and narration in the entire game is written in poetry, rhyming couplets, four-line stanzas, and so on. It felt like reading a story book, a fairy tale, and I couldn’t help but laugh when one character, chronically unable to rhyme, has all of her lines finished by someone else.

The art style of the game is nothing short of mind-blowing: each area of Lemuria is a beautiful painting like a watercolor, but better, and I could easily lose myself in the background, mesmerized by every small yet poignant detail.

Gameplay is just barely standard for an RPG but takes the typical experience a few steps further. First, the entire game is a 2D side-scroller, but unlike Metroidvanias, it still manages to play like a traditional RPG: there are worlds to explore, treasures to find, secret passages to discover, and enemies to avoid or battle. At the start of the game, you can only explore by walking around, which is somewhat slow and tedious; not too much later, however, you gain the ability to fly at will–and once you do, not only is it incredibly faster to travel but the world also opens before you as you fly upwards to heights unseen in other fantasy role-playing games.

The battle system fuses classic turn-based combat with a real-time strategy as you and your opponents move along a timeline at the bottom of the screen. When you enter the action phase, beware: getting hit by an enemy will interrupt your action and send you back on the timeline. Thankfully, there are never more than three enemies at a time (as compared to your two party members) and your elemental companion (a blue firefly-like creature far less annoying than Ocarina of Time‘s Navi) can be used to slow down opponents to allow your character to inch in front of them on the timeline and, if successful, interrupt their attacks instead. Your companion can also be used to recover both HP and magic points for your own characters, but his power has a limit to keep the game balanced.

Overall, I felt like Child of Light was an easy game; I played on normal difficulty, and more often than not, I was able to progress quickly with minimal challenge to the point I found it an incredibly relaxing experience. The number of recovery items and skill-enhancing stones that you find throughout your journey only bolster this sense of ease; if I were to play it again, I’d likely try it on a harder difficulty. In all, I only lost two battles the entire game, both boss battles, and each time was more a result of having forgotten to allocate my skill points to strengthen my characters rather than the enemy being too difficult.

For visual appearance and soundtrack, Child of Light earns a solid 10/10.

The gameplay, at times slow in its progression, only earns 7/10.

And the story? The story is beautiful. It transported me back to the fairy tales of my youth, and I felt young and hopeful, eager to see if the heroine would win or if darkness would prevail. There are touching moments shared between all the characters, and the final few scenes were nothing short of extraordinary–I was moved to the edge of my seat and filled with hopefulness to see how it would end.

So, yes, I’d say its story certainly deserves a score of 10/10–not all because of its originality, but because of how it’s told and how the storytelling is better for it.

If you own a Nintendo Switch and enjoy fantasy RPGs, Child of Light is not to be missed. It periodically goes on sale, so be sure to grab it next time it does.

Or why wait? It’s definitely worth the full price, too.

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