Death of the Critic

The Backlog - Child of Light

Written by: Tom Blaich


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my
backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

Child of Light is a great idea trapped in a prison of its own mechanics. It has a compelling world, gorgeous art and character design, a great story, and an interesting gimmick. But it just is not fun to play. I felt like I was forcing myself through battle after repetitive battle until I was doing everything I could to avoid these encounters, which in turn made every subsequent fight that I was forced into more and more punishing. I love being in the world, exploring every nook and cranny that I could find and meeting new characters to rhyme with, but the actual core combat gameplay was boring, unbalanced, and generally not fun.

You are Aurora, the daughter of a duke, and after you die in your sleep one night, you are transported to a strange and magical world. You are accompanied by a tiny firefly, Ignacious, as you try to beat back the Dark Queen and get back to your father. As the Child of Light, it falls to you to defeat the forces of darkness. The story is communicated in simple rhymes, usually ABCB, that, while adding nothing to the story, function as an amazing bit of character for the game.

Almost every piece of dialogue and story follows this format, so when we meet Rubella, a jester who joins you early in the game and is strangely incapable of rhyming, it gives her a sense of identity that few characters in games get to have. I love this character, with her bumbling earnestness and her desire to fit in as everyone around her gets increasingly frustrated with her messing up the rhyme scheme that everyone else slavishly sticks to. It marks her as an outsider, a misfit, a perfect member for the party that you build to challenge the status quo.

The art style is gorgeous as well. As you move through light and dark across the corrupted world, you are drenched in style. Your hair flows gently in the air around you and all of the enemies feel like perversions of ideas that we are used to. They aren’t original, but they are extraordinarily well made.

There is a moment about a half an hour in where you have just finished the tutorial and meet the driving force of good in the game. You have started to explore the world and it’s combat and can build an idea of what the game will be in your mind, a turn based RPG with light platforming and puzzle segments, some story, and a small amount of character.

But then you are given wings, and as you gently float into the air, the world changes. You can soar above the treetops and into the clouds, trivializing the puzzles you solved while making the word feel so much bigger and more varied than it had moments before. You meet Rubella and the story opens itself up to you, oozing character from every pore.


The combat they built to push you through the game is serviceable, but it quickly becomes repetitive two on three battles against enemies that you can’t see the health of with a level curve that is hard to keep up with. You have some amount of real time input through Ignacious, who you can fly around screen to slowly heal members of your party or slow down the actions of a member of the enemy’s party, but the mechanics are quickly laid bare. Wait for a meter to fill to get your chance to slap someone, while hoping you don’t get interrupted during the action phase. And since there are always more enemies than there are friendly party members, you get interrupted a lot, and more than a few battles feel unfair as you get locked in a loop of healing yourself only to get interrupted before you can attack the enemy, and needing to heal again. Over and over.

It is an amazing game that I didn’t enjoy
playing. It succeeds at so much with the story and the world, and these are the experiences that I will carry away from my time with the game. I wanted to like playing it, but as much as I liked being in the world, I couldn’t bring myself to keep playing much past the halfway point. The game has as much character as any game that I’ve played in the last year, but it ultimately feels wasted by poor mechanics.



Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.

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