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Children of the Sun

Children of the Sun

René Rother delivers a well-constructed, simple experience that really works, but may also become a little too monotonous in the long run.

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Not too long ago, we here at Gamereactor published a review of Pepper Grinder, and to roughly summarise that text (which is worth reading separately), the game's central gimmick is quite reliably entertaining, but due to a relatively singular focus, the game's insistent focus on this one mechanic ends up being a bit of a hindrance.

That's pretty much the same thing I can say about Children of the Sun, and while this exciting puzzle shooter has a bit more to offer, both narratively and structurally, it's the narrow focus on nailing one specific loop that will define whether this is for you.

Okay, so what is the singular focus? In Children of the Sun, you're an emotionally scarred ex-cult member who was lured by promises of religious liberation and eternal salvation by an enigmatic but persuasive leader, but after your personal mentor gets hurt, you decide to take revenge on the cult members. And yes, you also have superpowers that allow you to manipulate objects. This means you're particularly handy with a sniper rifle, as you can manipulate the projectile even after a direct hit, allowing you to quickly put a whole group of evil cult members in their graves.

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So what does this mean mechanically? Each individual lane (there are a good 25 of them) consists of a series of enemies that you circulate (movement is limited to moving either left or right only) and mark. Once you're ready, you fire your first shot and if it makes contact with the target, you're then allowed to map out a new direction in slow motion. The way you accomplish this is that all enemies die with one projectile. There are exceptions here, as the game allows you to select a bird as a target that allows your projectile to travel upwards and regain the overview, and you can also aim for the petrol tank of a parked vehicle. The point is that the game continually expands the methods available to you, but the relatively simple premise of the game is that you must solve the puzzle in front of you and calculate the exact total trajectory of the projectile that will cause all cult members to lose their lives.

It sounds simple, and in practice it is just that. The game is certainly dressed up with plenty of design make-up to spice up the premise, and the gradually evolving story that tells of the cult's enigmatic leader, their horrific manipulation of their members and your gradual realisation of the atrocities going on around you is effectively told through relatively static visuals. Furthermore, there's a raw, unsweetened and almost demake-like graphical style that works well with Devolver's other output. It's the exact same lo-fi aesthetic that's prevalent among indie darlings right now, from Buckshot Roulette to Iron Lung, and it works. Combine that with a scratchy soundtrack that's mostly made up of pulsating sounds, and you've got a pretty polished package that attacks the senses in a pretty direct way.

A low introductory price, a simple structural premise that allows for mechanical quirks and a well-constructed aesthetic - what's not to like? Well, as with some indie games, and this is again where the Pepper Grinder comparison is useful, there's a slight mismatch in the amount of mechanical variety, the number of active systems and the overall length of the experience - what is often summarised as "pacing". Children of the Sun isn't exactly long, and if you're not stuck in any particular place, it can be completed in a few hours, but before that I found myself several times longing for something more, something different. Maybe a simple meta-system or two that allowed me to customise my specific sniper rifle between missions? Maybe the enemies could detect me if I was careless? I'm not a game designer, but the experience ended up being somewhat singular, and not always in a good way.

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Of course, you could, as always, turn it around and praise developer René Rother for designing a very specific mechanical and structural framework and then wanting to nail the gameplay within it, rather than constantly expanding it. This is absolutely true, and for the purposes of leaderboards, there is certainly room for a strong community that wants to complete scenarios as quickly and efficiently as possible. But for those of us who play games once, it's just simple enough, even if what you're actually doing is entertaining.

07 Gamereactor UK
7 / 10
+
Solid graphics. Great pulsating soundtrack. Well-functioning gameplay. A great community via leaderboards.
-
Might be missing a mechanical expansion or two during the total playtime. Gets a bit monotonous before the end credits roll.
overall score
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Children of the Sun

REVIEW. Written by Magnus Groth-Andersen

René Rother delivers a well-constructed, simple experience that really works, but may also become a little too monotonous in the long run.



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