Game Review: "Sky: Children of the Light" Is Beautiful but Marred by Clunky Controls

Sky: Children of the Light has a great concept, but the frustrating controls make it difficult to play and rob much of the excitement.
Game Review: "Sky: Children of the Light" Is Beautiful but Marred by Clunky Controls

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Sky: Children of the Light was at the top of my list for "things I need to play this year" when the pre-order option came.

A mobile game from the makers of Journey, Sky looks and feels very much like a cross between a Pixar and Studio Ghibli film. In it you play a cape-wielding, iridescent hero who goes around collecting spirits in a beautiful-yet-desolate world.

"I'm trying to make something like a Pixar movie," Jenova Chen, co-founder of thatgamecompany, said in an interview with Polygon. "Something for the family to play together."

Because of the thought put into this concept—on a mobile platform, no less—I was very excited about the finished product. I was as primed as I could ever be.

Unfortunately I didn't love Sky nearly as much as I'd hoped for, and while I waited a bit longer to see if these issues would be tweaked with bug fixes, they're still there.

As such, I've come to the conclusion that there is a mismatch between the game's control system and my own personal preferences.

The Good

Sky Children of the Light Review Character Walking

Way back in the day—we're talking 2005—there was a game released to PS2 called Shadow of the Colossus. In it, a young hero called Wander travels through a desolate open world looking for titans.

Just like in Sky, you have to traverse a somewhat empty landscape. Shadow was a feat of aesthetics and innovation in terms of boss battles, and I would argue that Sky is channeling the aesthetics of this prior game, too, albeit subconsciously.

When I first opened up the app, I was so excited to see a mobile game that was reminiscent of my old-time-favorites that I was practically salivating at the mouth.

Sky's sound design is exquisite and works best on headphones. The world that your character runs through is not entirely "desolate", but not without a lingering stillness, as well.

In some ways, it also reminds me of Angel's Egg: a post-apocalyptic anime where the disaster has long since passed and all that's left is grass and ruined structures.

Sky Children of the Light Review Rescue Spirits

Equally impressive and admirable is Sky's non-violent storyline, where you aim to restore a series of spirits through exploration and puzzle hunting, assisted by additional players.

The current real-world political climate has been weighing heavy on me, and I've been seeking out a lot of non-violent games to offset it. It's a shift in my perspective, I think, on my own understanding of death as permeance.

So Sky had everything going for it. It really did. And because I was so primed for this game I'm much more forgiving of it than I would normally be: perhaps foolishly so. I want to make allowances for it.

Unfortunately its controls, which have been advertised as innate and perceptive, are extremely clunky. This was a feature that bedevilled the aforementioned Colossus, too.

The Bad

Sky Children of the Light Review Bad Controls

At first I thought that I was just a slow learner when it came to managing the controls. I didn't really see anyone else trashing Sky for it, and figured that it was just me.

As the issue persisted, I wondered if it was a bug that the developers were aiming to fix. I wanted to give them a wider time allowance.

After a couple weeks, however, I came to accept that the minimal interface is part of Sky's design. In an effort to blend it into the aesthetics of the game as seamlessly as possible, they've sacrificed a lot of accessibility.

On a personal level I want ease-of-use first and aesthetic second, otherwise I can't find time to enjoy the story.

Even now I sort of struggle with basic functions, and I spend more time trying to steer my characters around the landscape than playing the game itself.

In this unfortunate way, Sky is Shadow's successor yet again: a beautiful game marred by clunky controls.

One really interesting thing to note is that this game is very similar in its visuals to The Crumbling Prince: an escape room run by Ukiyo in Melbourne, Australia. I'm a huge fan of Ukiyo's work—it's like playing Sky, but instead you're living it out in real life.

Sky: Children of the Light
Sky: Children of the Light
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Hunt through a world filled with magical ruins in order to unite the spirits.
Hunt through a world filled with magical ruins in order to unite the spirits.
Total Score