Sunday, May 11, 2014

Once Upon a Pixel with Child of Light.

You know, I don’t really get much chance to write about video games on this blog.  This is a bit strange, when you think about it.  I mean, fantasy-based video games are no stranger to fairy tale type elements.  In video games I’ve been lost in dark, scary woods, talked to helpful animals, used enchanted objects and attempted to save more princesses than I could count (okay, to be fair, those were often the same princesses over and over).  However, the thing about fantasy video games is that by their very nature and the structure they adhere to, they don’t so much evoke fairy tales as they evoke . . . fantasy video games.  Or, at the very least, many of them feel like Tolkien pastiches.

Then I went and downloaded the new game Child of Light.

Photo courtesy of
I have never before seen a video game that evoked this much fairy tale mojo and worked  so hard to maintain it.  The set-up is like this.  There was once a duke whose wife, a mysterious duchess, died.  All things were well until the duke became lonely and began to court a dark beauty.  Then, the duke’s youngest daughter Aurora caught a chill and seemingly died.  The duke was devastated.  However, far away, Aurora found herself waking up in a dark, spooky forest.  I’m really not doing a great job of explaining this.  This video does a far better job of it.

Anyway, it turns out she’s in Lemuria, which has been reimagined for the purpose of this game into a sort of fairy tale land.  Aurora meets a firefly named Igniculus and makes her way through the dark forest.  Along the way, she receives a sword and some fairy wings and is placed on a quest to find the sun, moon and stars which were stolen and hidden away by an evil queen.  As she goes along, Aurora’s joined on her quest by a jester, a wizard who looks a lot like one of the seven dwarfs, her sister who’s been given protective magic, a large talking mouse and other characters I have yet to meet (I haven’t gotten that far yet).  Naturally, since this is a video game, it will still include some video game elements.  In this case, it’s fighting and jumping.  This game’s primary mode of locomotion at least at the beginning is running and jumping like a platforming game like Super Mario Bros.  After you get the wings, you’ll likely spend a lot more time flying.  The game also features a turn-based battle system common with role playing games.  The rest of the game is rather unique, though.  First of all, it’s absolutely beautiful to behold.  The art resembles storybook illustrations colored with watercolors.  The dialogue is done all in a simple rhyme scheme that gives it all a very “Fee Fi Fo Fum” or “Mirror mirror on the wall” type of vibe (the only character who doesn’t rhyme is the jester and the other characters keep correcting her).  The game is just peppered with fairy tale tropes, too.  There’s everything from dark forests to evil queens to talking animals.  Sometimes things are included just for spectacle.  Early in the game, you can see a giant lumbering off in the distance.

Photo courtesy of
Now, I keep saying that the game is very fairy tale inspired.  However, my more savvy readers are probably wondering what kind of fairy tale.  Is it the rustic, earthiness of Grimm?  How about the courtly wit of Perrault?  Maybe it’s something bittersweet like Andersen or Wilde?  Or maybe it has the whimsy of a Stockton or Baum?  If the truth is to be told, it has a little bit of all of it.  It also has some elements of classic children’s fantasy novels and even a dash of dream-like fantasy similar to Windsor McKay’s Little Nemo.

Also, I should note that the game is incredibly playable and addictive.  I once sat down to play it and found myself only able to pull myself away after a couple of hours.  It has already inspired Lindsey Stirling to film this video (which is pretty cool).  Also, how awesome is this game’s protagonist?  It’s a little girl in a fake crown with fairy wings and a sword.  It’s a female character who’s not grim or gritty or grown-up or sexualized or created just to be rescued.  Heck, she’s not even a princess as far as we know (remember, her mother had mysterious origins).  Whenever someone calls her “princess”, she corrects them and tells them to just call her Aurora.

photo courtesy of
The game is made by Ubisoft Montreal and was created by a small team of very talented people as seen on the game’s website.  It’s also available for download on most major game systems (I purchased mine via Wii U).  If you play on PC, it can be downloaded on Steam right here.

If you are at all a video game player and have not yet tried this game, I suggest you give it a try.  It’s a unique RPG experience that evokes fairy tales while not repeating the plots of tales we already know too well.

Played the game and have thoughts?  Have thoughts regardless of playing the game?  Post in the comments below.



  1. Thank you for reviewing this! It's been in my to-blog list forever and I've only heard great things but I wanted some hands on experience of it to write a proper post (I've been on the verge of relegating it to a footnote in a roundup post or similar so I at least wouldn't skip it altogether but this has made me think twice about doing that). Every time I've looked into it it's seemed impressive - on every level and it's been recommended to me a number of times as well. I'll have to go ahead and download, try it out, write something short and then send people here to read your excellent review :) (it jives with everything everyone has told me as well, so I'm more inclined than ever to check it out now). Thanks Adam!

    1. It seems your posting style and mine kind of run counter to each other. I was actually going to post about other things but both the Fables post and this one supplanted them. You always seem so good at staying on top of what's new and happening, whereas I usually end up posting about stuff that's old but that I just discovered. That's why when I found out about this game I actually wanted to download this and write about it as soon as I could. For once, I thought I might actually strike while the iron was hot.

      Besides, video games fit right into the mission statement of Fairy Tale Fandom. So, I'm glad I had the chance.