Exploration in Child of Light
is elementary, and as a result, there isn't too much to talk about. At first, it might feel like a puzzle platformer in the same vein as Limbo
, but everything changes when Aurora meets Igniculus and eventually is gifted with a pair of wings. The world opens up: not only can Aurora fly almost anywhere on and beyond the screen, but Igniculus can be controlled independently with the Right Analog Stick. He can interact with special puzzle triggers and light-sensitive chests by fluorescing -- he can even blind enemies roaming on the screen so that Aurora can set up a surprise attack from the rear.
Scattered across Lemuria are stardust caches and special gems called oculi. Stardust allows Aurora and her companions to permanently upgrade their attributes, while oculi are customizable accessories that bestow passive combat abilities. For example, a sapphire slotted to the attack option imbues a character's melee strike with water damage, and equipping a diamond elsewhere might boost the amount of experience gained per battle. Oculi come in different states of quality, and they either can be combined with identical pieces to create stronger variants, or with others to create completely different oculi.
One would think that there's absolutely nowhere to innovate with something as established, as old as the turn-based combat system popularized by games like Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy. One who played Child of Light would know that's not entirely true. While it's true that this game has you taking turns to unleash attacks on enemies, it gives you a degree of control over such a seemingly small part of the system that it ends up being deceptively deep. I'm referring to time.
At the bottom of the screen is a timeline separated into two components. The Wait bar is by far the longest portion, and the Cast bar is considerably shorter. On the timeline are the portraits of the characters involved in the battle -- both Aurora's and those of the enemy forces. When the battle begins, all portraits move from left to right on the timeline. Once they reach the Cast bar, the choice of action is made. Depending on the set amount of time assigned to each action, the amount of time in the Cast bar can be anywhere from none to several seconds. If you manage to land a hit on an enemy whose portrait is in the Cast bar, you will interrupt that enemy and kick it back onto the Wait bar. Special potions affect the speed of both Aurora's party and their enemies, but there's one more layer of strategy. Igniculus floats freely on the battlefield, and can be a huge asset to your attempts at controlling the ebb and flow of battle. As long as Igniculus has the energy, he can fluoresce over allies to heal them or over enemies to slow their progress on the timeline. If he runs out of energy, special wish plants on the battlefield can be harvested to replenish it. All of this makes for a turn-based combat system that feels fresh.
Child of Light is absolutely a one-and-done game, but the quality of that one playthrough more than justifies the game's price tag. It has its head in the clouds more often than not, but face it: we're all entitled to that once in a while. In the end, Child of Light is something of a rare breed: a treat for all ages.