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PAX East 2014: Child of Light (Ubisoft) Hands-On Demo Preview
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April 17, 2014, 09:41
I don't know why, but I was under the impression that everyone at PAX East was just as interested in Child of Light as I was, and that lines for it would be nuts. But I was actually able to walk right up and start playing.

If you haven't heard of Child of Light, it is upcoming action / RPG from Ubisoft running off of the Rayman Legends engine. And, to be frank, it's one of the most interesting looking games in Ubisoft's upcoming line-up, even if it doesn't get quite the same mainstream attention as some of the others. But will it actually be any good? We shall have to wait and see on that, but my experience with the demo left me feeling pretty good about this game.

That... is not me playing the game. But I was there, and I played it!

The demo starts you off at the beginning of the game, where you take control of a girl named Aurora who is living in Austria (my people!) in the late 1800s. Aurora dies (this isn't a spoiler as it happens literally less than a minute into the game) and you must help her to do erm... something or other. I wasn't quite clear what her ultimate goal is.

Child of Light is visually a pretty stunning game, and although I was playing the PC build, I am confident that the Wii U version will also look great, because it's not just tech but the art style and design that makes the game look so good. Everything is done in a beautiful hand-drawn style, with some very smooth animations and plenty of parallax scrolling to add depth. There was one particular part early on where a solitary tree stood in a ray of light amidst darkness... it was oh so sweet.

The demo had a sort of storybook feel to it, with dialog mostly taking place in rhyme form. There were plenty of mythical elements to it, including a talking crow (with a top hat and monocle) and pulling a sword from a stone.

It looks great, no? And it animates great as well.

Outside of battles Child of Light plays a bit like a 2D platformer / puzzle game, albeit it was pretty light on both of those elements next to the type of games that focus on them exclusively. There was some jumping between tree branches, a few box sliding puzzles, a puzzle involving lining up shadows; it was fun stuff but nothing that you haven't seen before. Early into the demo I met up with a small sprite-like creature named Firefly, who acts as a helper to Aurora. You can take control of Firefly by holding the left trigger and moving him? / her? / it? with the right analog stick. For the most part, outside of battles, the demo had me using Firefly to collect energy and stun foes.

You can start a battle by running into an enemy (starting with an advantage or disadvantage based on whether you ambushed the enemy or vice versa), and the battle system is where Child of Light really stood out to me. Basically, it controlled like a turn-based RPG where each character (both player and enemy) had a timed action bar which, when full, would allow the character to take action. This alone is nothing particularly new, but the battle system introduces a unique element in Firefly, who you can move around during battles to gather energy, hit foes to slow them down, etc. How far this mechanic will go in the final game I can't quite say, but it felt pretty fresh and definitely has potential.

It's tough to gauge how much depth the game has from the demo, but I also got to play around with the branching skill system, which lets you unlock a variety of skills in a weblike fashion. The skills I saw on the web had a pretty solid variety, so I'm sure that you will be able to craft the experience in your own fashion to some degree.

The platforming elements are fairly simple, at least in the demo they are.

I guess the only real negative that I experienced while playing the demo is that it was sometimes difficult to determine what was part of the foreground and background, and it took me a bit to figure out which way to go at times. I suspect that if I were to spend more time with the game I would get a better sense of things.

Overall I went into Child of Light without knowing much other than it looked like a cool 2D game for my Wii U (I didn't even know it was an RPG!), and walked away intrigued. It's tough to say if it will be a great game or not based on my limited experience with the demo, but I can positively say that I enjoyed what I played so far. If nothing else it will definitely be one of the best looking games on the Wii U.

Child of Light releases on the Wii U (and other platforms) on April 29th, 2014.

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04/17/14, 09:41   Edited:  04/17/14, 09:40
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I dunno, I love me some pretty 2D games, but I still can't see why everyone thinks this game looks so "beautiful," it's just kind of a generic storybook style. It's like a less colorful version of Aquaria, and less well animated than Dust: An Elysian Tail, and with weaker gameplay than either of those. That said, I eagerly await it because I'm a sucker for platformers and turn-based RPGs, but I'm just not catching the beauty bug with this one. (Every single trailer this game has posted at Giant Bomb has a variation of the word "beautiful" in it.)

Posted by 
 on: 04/17/14, 10:37
Yeah, I'm not sold on it looking as beautiful as everyone claims, but it still looks like a game I'll really enjoy and plan on buying day 1.

Posted by 
 on: 04/17/14, 14:12
Nathalie and I played it as well. Not the best kind of game to demo at a convention, but it got me interested. Nathalie really liked the style and is planning on getting it on Wii U.

Posted by 
 on: 04/17/14, 14:26
@Xbob42 I actually kind of prefer this style to Dust's, it's a bit more um... soft? But both look pretty good. And Dust isn't on the Wii U so it stands out as a Wii U title, at least.

Posted by 
 on: 04/18/14, 02:25
Exciting stuff. It's awesome that the Negative World community is so unbelievably large now, too.

Was that a non-sequitur?

Posted by 
 on: 04/18/14, 03:05
Reviews are coming out, it's doing pretty well. Mind you most of the reviews are for the PS4/XboxOne consoles but I can't imagine it would be much different on the Wii U. Probably will pick this one up.

Posted by 
 on: 04/28/14, 20:12   Edited:  04/28/14, 20:13
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