Ubisoft’s masterful “Child of Light,” now available on the PSN for a ridiculously low price ($14.99) given what it offers, is the first PS4 game to really captivate me from beginning to end. I enjoyed “Infamous: Second Son.” All three LEGO games for the PlayStation 4 have entertained me and my oldest son to various degrees. “Need For Speed Rivals” and even “Killzone: Shadow Fall” look amazing. “Child of Light” is the first PS4 game to blend it all—gorgeous, unique graphics with some of the most addictive RPG gameplay of the last several years. It is a deceptively simple game that gets more challenging and customizable as your party grows and your skill sets increase. It is the rare RPG that doesn’t feel cluttered or repetitive and yet still offers waves of second-by-second decisions that need to be made and even a bit of grinding and side missions for those looking for RPG staples. It is 25% of the cost of most PS4 games, runs for hours (and that’s without much exploration and zipping through the dialogue scenes quickly), and is so satisfying that I was actually sad when it was over. I didn’t want to leave this world. And I can’t wait to go back to it to complete a few side missions and, hopefully, play story-based DLC down the road. It’s hard to say that a PSN game could justify the purchase price of an expensive console but this is close to serving as the tipping point to making the PS4 a must-own console (especially when partnered with the just-released “MLB 14 The Show,” the best sports game ever). When you finally do take the PS4 plunge, “Child of Light” is the first game you should download.
You play a girl named Aurora, who has died and awoken in a strange fantasy land with one goal—to return to your loving father in the land of the living. Like Dorothy in Oz, you will meet a variety of characters in this fantasy world who will join your party, starting with a glowing light named Igniculus. For the majority of “Child of Light,” you’ll be able to control Igniculus with the right analog stick while moving or stacking actions with the left. He’s a multi-purpose buddy, someone who can collect things for you in the environment, trigger switches to open doors, and even serve roles in combat including healing and slowing down your enemies. As with everything in “Child of Light,” you’ll have to figure out the best times and ways to use your light-based pal. Everyone you meet who joins your party comes with different skill sets. Clowns Rubella & Tristis are generally healers, almost worthless in combat but well-partnered with stronger allies to keep them upright. Dwarf Finn is a magical creature, the good guy with the strongest spell-casting abilities. Others you will meet will launch arrows at your enemies and one big guy will cast a spell called Quake that you will come to adore (if you follow the same combat strategies as I do).
About that combat. It’s insanely addictive and well-structured. You will always have only two fighters from your party in combat at any given time, facing one-to-three enemies. You can swap out members of your party or perform an array of actions like spell-casting, potions, or simple sword swinging in a turn-based system represented by a bar on the bottom of the screen with icons for your good guys and the bad ones you’re facing. Two sections divide when you’re waiting and when you’re acting, and different actions take different amounts of time. It’s an insanely easy system to learn but one that you’ll have fun finetuning through your final battle. I generally approached each fight with two characters with different skill sets, one who could either slow down my enemy through potion, spell, armor, etc. and then one who could kick his ass. You’ll find your own way. And love every minute of it.
“Child of Light” is also incredibly captivating visually. The graphics look often like hand-drawn, animated cels placed on top of each other to give the effect of a 3D painting to the player. There were times when I just admired the world around me and the detailed character animations of my new friends. It’s an environment that pulls you in, tells an engaging story, and offers fantastic action to boot. For the first time in a long time, and the first time on a PS4, I was sad when a game was over not because I was dissatisfied but because I wouldn’t have a reason to play it any more.