Platform: Xbox 360
Review Date: 6/20/14
Aurora is the young daughter of an Austrian duke, who wakes up one day on a mysterious altar in a strange and unfamiliar land. Overwhelmed with grief and fear, her only thought is to find a way back home so that she can comfort her ailing father. But a dark queen rules this land, and Aurora must find allies to aid her in her quest. Fortunately, Aurora is a charmed girl with a bright and cheery disposition, so she makes friends pretty easily. She may also be the prophesied princess who will unite the people and liberate the land from its oppressors. Her journey is a coming-of-age adventure, punctuated with moments of somber revelation and profound sadness.
The first thing you notice about the game is the superb art direction and breathtaking scenery. Everything has a hand-drawn watercolor look and feel, and it's simply gorgeous. Accompanying this beautiful landscape is a stunning and emotionally resonant soundtrack by Cur de Pirate (available here). Exploring all the nooks and crannies of this magical land is a wonderful experience, and Aurora is a delightful character to play. Unfortunately, combat is a bit tedious and the battle mechanics can be confusing and difficult to figure out, but after a few hours you start to figure out certain strategies and patterns. While combat can be easily avoided in nearly all cases, it's required in order to gain experience. And like most RPGs, the more experience points you have, the better off you'll be when you start encountering extremely serious threats, so you pretty much have to engage in combat every chance you get. Curiously, the minor boss battles in the middle of the game are considerably more difficult than the final showdown, which could either be the result of overzealous leveling, or just becoming more proficient with the combat engine. Another complicated aspect of combat is the use of magical gems, or Oculi, that you find throughout the game. Each character can enhance their physical, magical, and defensive skills by equipping various Oculi, which some creatures are vulnerable or immune to. It adds an additional, but unnecessary layer of complexity and strategy (it reminded me of the arcana system in "Arcana Heart" which I never bothered with).
Presentation wise, the game is fabulous and super fun to play, and I found myself coming back to it several times after finishing the main narrative to fly around and search for hidden goodies that I had missed during my initial run. It's also quite enjoyable to just float around and listen to the enchanting music. The biggest annoyance is the dialog, which attempts to rhyme in a story book fashion. It can be difficult to follow at times, but it seems like towards the end of the game, the writers just gave up on the approach. An amusingly self aware aspect of this narrative style is that there's one character who can't rhyme, which irritates the other characters. Another minor nuisance is the game's narrator, who voices several passages with an awkward tone and cadence. I notice this a lot in Canadian games, as well as European games that try to employ American accents. It's technically and grammatically correct, but it's not quite right.
As a $15 game on Xbox LIVE, it's an incredible value and money well spent. You can choose to spend twice as much on add-ons like extra costumes, different skills, and additional Oculi to boost your strength. There's also an extra side quest called "The Golem's Plight" which nets you an extra ally, but you have to install this quest BEFORE you start playing the game. If you install it after you finish the main game (like I did), you can't access it. So that was a bit frustrating, and it would have been nice to know that beforehand. Overall, I found "Child Of Light" to be one of the most attractive and enjoyable gaming experiences I've had in quite a while.