There is a question that gets asked a lot when we think of video games; “Are they art?” or “Can they be art?” In the end, it depends on what you look for; What is a movie? A movie is a range of creative outlets, brought together to provide an audio visual story that lasts for a certain length of time, depending if you’re watching the 1 second film or The Longest Most Meaningless Movie In The World (Yes, they both exist under those names)). In turn, video games are no different. Is there a story? If it is written, then it is art. What about music? If it is written, played and therefore created, then it is art.
Artistic games have existed for years. Some are because of their high quality story. Others because of their up-to-date visuals. But then there are others who choose stylisation over the most realistic graphics of the time. Such an approach has been seen in game series like The Legend Of Zelda (comparing Wind Waker to Twilight Princess, or even Skyward Sword to Twilight Princess), others would include cartoony games such as Beyond Good and Evil and the Sly Cooper series. While others will in fact utilise a real art style, such as the use of Sum-e in the legendary and timeless game, Okami. But onto the answer to another question; Is Child Of Light an artistic game containing beauty, elegance, love, and passion? Yes, yes, yes, and yes.
When I saw the trailer to Child Of Light for the 1st time, I wanted it. It was like walking into a shop and finding something that really catches your eye. Something that made you say “I’m not leaving until I have bought this. I don’t know the details, and I haven’t heard reviews, but this appeals to me”, or in this case, secured a pre-order, in order to receive the item as soon as it was released.
Child Of Light is a Coming-Of-Age Story about a young girl in 1895 Austria named Aurora. She falls into a deep sleep and wakes up in Lemuria, a land that has had the sun, the moon, and the stars stolen from it by the Dark Queen, Umbra. In order to get home and be reunited with her Father, she must recover them with the help of her companion Igniculus the Firefly (who looks like a glowing Raindrop, but is in fact a small blue ball of fire) and a group of other characters she meets along the way, including a jester, a large, love-stuck mouse, a cowardly gnome with magic powers and a masked tribal beast. Anybody who knows movies like Labyrinth, The Wizard Of Oz and their RPG games will be familiar with the varied and unlikely line-up with different strengths, weaknesses and goals. They’re all pretty well developed by the time you get to the end of the game, which I consider a real plus. Also nearly all of the dialogue is in rhyme. At times it seems forced, but it’s also playful, poetic, and in its own right, an art.
Developed using the UbiArt Framework engine (the same 1 used to revive Ubisoft mascot Rayman with the acclaimed Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends), this game is a living, breathing collection of watercolour paintings, created by hand, scanned in, and set in place. I was even more excited when I found out about where they were getting their influences: Studio Ghibli? Final Fantasy Concept Character Designer Yoshitaka Amano (Who also designed the poster that comes with the deluxe edition of the game)? Vagrant Story? Limbo? Final Fantasy VIII? I don’t know about you, but this made me a happy bunny! And they all show themselves somehow. It is a visually beautiful, breath-taking game, and I loved everything that appeared on the screen before me.
The music is created by French-Canadian Singer-Songwriter Coeur de pirate, whose own indie pop songs sound very different to what appears in the game. Presumably as a way to show off her range. Much of it is piano, strings and wood instrumentals, and it sounds absolutely magical! Beautiful, whimsical, light-hearted, and yet you can still sense the danger, wonder, adventure and exploration that the game provides. It fits the game’s tone perfectly.
The controls and gameplay are that of a role-playing game. You control 2 characters at a time, and you can switch them with other party members when it’s your turn. Igniculus can also play a vital role, and provide the player with an advantage. He can not only heal you with his glowing power, but he can slow down an enemies turn with the same control when he hovers over them. Strategy is key to this. Some enemies can only be finished quickly by certain party members, while other members will have aiding powers more-so than attacks. Your characters will also level up, providing you with skill points to build their strength and make them better in battle. The harder your enemies are, the more points you’ll receive when levelling up. It’s standard in RPGs, but this is nice and simple, and a pleasure to pick up.
Like other games using the UbiArt Framework engine, the level design is that of a 2-D side scroller. Because Aurora has wings, and there’s the fast-travel ability on the world map, you can basically go anywhere that has been unlocked and discovered with ease, even up to the sky or the deepest depths, where there are lots of hidden treasures, quests, and even characters (Yes, like Final Fantasy 7, some of your party members are optional. They need to be found in order to have them).
The game’s creators intended on creating the sort of game that could be passed onto children, and you know what, they did an awesome job. They have officially pulled a Dr Seuss or a Winnie The Pooh. They created a timeless game that can be universally experienced. One I hope to keep playing again for years to come, even when I’ve collected all of the trophies. It’s a game that put me in a good mood, and it’s up there with Brothers, Persona 4, Batman Arkham City, and The Last Of Us in terms of brilliance.
10/10 for the Art Style: 10/10 for the Music: 10/10 for the Graphics: 10/10 for the Gameplay: 10/10 for the Level Design: 10/10 for the Characters: 10/10 for the Story. Overall: 100/100