Child of Light
PS4, PS3, PS Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, PC
In gaming, journeys begin with the single press of a button. Should a game fail to capture a player’s attention, their audience will not hesitate to stop the game and never return. This unfortunate turn of events essentially leaves untold numbers of characters trapped in suspended animation, never knowing the outcome of their quest.
Games, particularly long form games, use tactics like interesting gameplay, well-rounded characters, and top-notch storytelling, to ensure players stick around for the end credits. Child of Light’s weapon of choice for example, is watercolor.
Personally, I want to get comfortable in the world in which I will be spending the next few days/weeks/months/years of my life. I want a living breathing world that I can just sit in and lose myself. That’s exactly what players are treated to in Child of Light. A living breathing world that stirs up childhood memories of bedtime stories.
Since Child of Light boasts no voice actors save the ones in your head, game design must pull double duty. Ubisoft Montreal, a subsidiary of the French video game developer Ubisoft, knew that the fantasy story told in Child of Light needed something beyond your average computer generated graphics to draw players into the world of Lemuria. Child of Light needed a style that was simple, colorful, and read like a fairytale. With these thoughts in mind, the art team looked turned their gaze to the 18th-century. Ancient illustrations and works by John Bauer, Edmund Dulac, and Arthur Rackham inspired the art team. They loved the soft dreamlike appearance watercolor created-and so do the players.
Child of Light allows players to journey through living illustrations in a way that many older players could only imagine doing when they were a child. Every brush stroke is emotionally charged. Colors hint at secrets that only residents of Lemuria know. Each screen invites players to stay just a little longer.
The painterly world of Lemuria is so inviting that players may even forget they are reading poetry. Fully engrossed in the living art that Ubisoft created, it almost seems natural for each line of dialogue to be written as part of a stanza that characters consciously work together to complete. Occasionally someone will break the rhyme scheme and the others will chide them for using the wrong word (I always enjoyed these small moments. Mostly because I knew I would be the one to break the stanza). It is usually at this point that players remember that Child of Light is an epic ballad. A ballad about a precocious young girl who simply wants to go back home, yet transforms into a strong young woman who is willing to fight for her kingdom.
Young Aurora is far from the helpless damsel in distress. She fights her evil stepmother and stepsisters rather than wait around for someone else to ride in and save the day. I do mean fight by the way. Aurora has a sword and she isn’t afraid to use it. Still. There are marks of a classic bedtime story. Magic spells, strange creatures, and divine intervention, all of which require the audience to suspend their disbelief. Not many games are able to pull off a story like Child of Light successfully without using the same graphics as big titles.
In looking to the past for inspiration, Child of Light eases a breath of fresh air into gaming. Pairing a painterly game design with an epic ballad creates a storybook world worth investigating, and a long journey that’s well worth taking.