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May 2024

Children Of The Sun

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: René Rother
Release Date: April 9, 2024


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PC Review - 'Children of the Sun'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on April 9, 2024 @ 8:00 a.m. PDT

Children Of The Sun is an atmospheric, stylish third-person shooter with a killer one-bullet twist.

Sometimes, a game is really only one thing, and that isn't bad. Some of the best games in the world do one thing and do it so well that simplicity doesn't get in the way. Children of the Sun is very much a one-thing game. It sticks to its premise and worries about making that one specific thing really fun to play. Thankfully, it nails it, and the result is a distinct, if straightforward, game.

In Children of the Sun, players take on the role of The Girl, who has psychic powers, owns a sniper rifle, and hates The Cult. In other words, The Cult is going to have a very bad day. There's not a lot of story, with most of the plot told through brief textless flashbacks, and only a few moments have any dialogue at all. It's a lurid revenge flick-turned-video game, and it provides just enough context to make you think that the cultists probably deserve what they're getting.

The easiest way to describe Children of the Sun is to compare it to Michael Richard's character Yondo from Guardians of the Galaxy. The Girl has a sniper rifle with a single bullet, and she must defeat an entire group of people with one shot. The bullet doesn't work like a bullet, though. Your character can guide the bullet and make it shift direction each time it hits a person, so it can instantly move to another foe. By the time a stage is done, you have a seamless series of redirects and movements that assure that you've cleared the entire area with one physics-defying shot.

Early on, this is simple enough. You shoot an enemy, and if you hit them, you can redirect your bullet in any direction. The overall puzzle is figuring out the right set of movements to hit everything in your path. You can mark enemies, so their position is always visible, and that mark remains visible even if you have to restart the stage, so you can use failed shots to gradually mark the location of every target on the map.

Things promptly get more complex. For example, you may need to bounce your bullet from a target up to a bird in the sky so you can get a better angle for another target that's harder to hit. Your target might be hiding behind a metal shield, so you can only hit them from behind, or the target might be moving around and require a precision shot. Each successive level gets more complex, eventually introducing challenges such as having to shoot in the middle of a car chase, finishing under a time limit, or encountering enemies who can create supernatural barriers.

You also get more powerful as the game progresses. Early on, you learn to "curve" the bullet, so you can make small but significant adjustments to its flight path to achieve otherwise impossible shots. Later, you unlock the ability to redirect your bullet mid-flight without needing to hit an enemy, but this needs to be charged up by striking enemy weak spots. You'll even learn to perform a powerful charged shot that needs space to gather momentum but can pierce otherwise invincible armored foes.

At its heart, Children of the Sun is a puzzle game, but it's a freeform one. You need to figure out the right patterns of movements, but there isn't usually one correct answer. As long as you clear out everything in the stage, you've succeeded. Sometimes this is relatively simple, and a stage can be finished in a few moments; other times, you need to plan the perfect set of movements to zigzag back and forth across the level.

Genuinely, the core gameplay of Children of the Sun is a lot of fun. It isn't a particularly long game, but it doesn't overstay its welcome. It introduces new concepts and ideas until the very end without reaching the point where the basic gameplay concept runs dry. There's something incredibly satisfying about threading your bullet through a narrow gap, but once you know the stage's gimmick, it's very easy to finish.

There is encouragement to do more. Each stage has an optional objective that's presented in the form of an oblique hint, like "The virus lives in the head." The objective asks you do unusual things, like make your bullet curve through a fire or hit an enemy from an extremely long distance. In addition, there's a scoring system where you are given bonus multipliers for acting quickly and using unique kill methods, such as taking out multiple enemies at once by shooting an explosive canister or, in true Robocop fashion, hitting them somewhere quite vulnerable. The result is that there's a good number of reasons to replay stages, since your scores are listed on global leaderboards for others to compete with.

Children of the Sun has a distinct visual style, with everything presented in a garish, almost Mandy-like color scheme where vivid, glowing targets stand out from a largely muted landscape. There's enough detail to the environment to make things feel nicely lived in, despite the relatively simple graphics. However, the soundtrack never did much for me, and I found some of the sound effects to be a bit grating. I understand what effect it was going for, but I wanted to mute it.

Children of the Sun has a specific gimmick, and it absolutely nails it. It's a simple but engaging premise that remains fun throughout the entire runtime. It's not overly long, so it's short enough to finish in one sitting, but the potential for high score runs gives it some extra bite. Children of the Sun provides exactly what players want: the chance to play out the raw insanity of Wanted or Guardians of the Galaxy's Yondo, and it nails that concept perfectly.

Score: 8.0/10

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