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Children of the Sun is Weird and Dark and Fantastic!

Key Takeaways
1. Shoot lots of bad guys with one bullet and telepathy!
2. Dark aesthetics and storytelling!
3. Replay levels to chase high scores!

I have loved seeing bright colors on a dark background ever since I heard the (semi-apocryphal) story that Batman: The Animated Series was drawn on black paper.

I ended up seeing screenshots of Death of a Wish and Children of the Sun at just about the same time a few weeks ago, and both of them had me hooked on visuals alone. While Death of the Wish looks like it was scratched into your screen by a crazy person, Children of the Sun uses darkness and bright, shining colors to show your character's focus as you telepathically control a bullet through the heads of countless cultists.


Sniper Puzzles

Children of the sun's camera chases the bullet.

While you do play as a character with a sniper rifle, Children of the Sun is not a shooter. Instead, it’s an action puzzle game where the puzzle is killing cultists and the solution is telepathically controlling a bullet. It’s got the horrifying, gruesome violence of a shooter, but the gameplay will appeal to fans of problem-solving way more than fans of clicking-on-heads.

The basic mechanic at the start of the game is that every time your bullet hits a person (or animal, gas tank, etc), time slows to a crawl while you reorient your bullet and it fires off again in a new direction. Before you take your shot, you can move a bit around the perimeter of whatever group of goons you’re aiming to off. This lets you plan out your route, even marking enemies with numbered indicators to help you stay on track once you start blasting.

Evolving Abilities

Every frame of children of the sun looks like a lofi wallpaper.

In theory, every level of Children of the Sun could only be a few seconds long. All you need is time to take the shot and redirect the bullet through a handful of glowing baddies. In practice, level layouts, enemies, and abilities all quickly build in intensity, and finding a way to get one bullet to hit every target takes a fair amount of study, experimentation, and execution.

Early on, you gain the power to adjust your bullet in the air, rather than just when you hit something. Holding down the left trigger while the bullet is in flight slows down time, and you can curve the trajectory of the bullet a bit, like young Professor X in that weird assassin movie from the keyboard meme. Just that little change totally shifts the way you look at finding a path through levels, and that’s just the first of three new abilities.

On the enemy side of things, you’re always shooting cult members. They’re usually just sort of hanging out in an environment, completely unaware of your presence. As the story unfolds, whether because they’ve caught on to your presence or because your are venturing deeper into their operations, enemies will start to have riot shields or full-on armor or… other ways of protecting themselves that you’ll have to learn to penetrate.

Aggressive Aesthetics and Violent Vibes

The art style in the brief cutscenes in children of the sun is fantastic.

The core gameplay loop of Children of the Sun is fantastic, but it’s the aesthetics that make this game sing. The art style looks great in screenshots, but it sings in motion. There is an eerie calm to the dark designs while you are scouting out a level, and the way that the entire world explodes into motion as the camera shoots across the map behind your bullet is electrifying.

Then, as if the visual stylings weren’t incredible enough, there is the audio. As someone who more often than not gets game time in while watching trash TV with my wife or Bluey with my kiddo, it is pretty common for me to move past a game’s audio as “fine but unmemorable”. Children of the Sun refuses to be played without audio. I don't mean that the game requires the audio to play, like in Cadence of Hyrule or Metal Hellsinger. It’s just that the scream of the bullet cutting through the ambient, static noise hits so hard that playing without it feels like playing Spider-Man without web-swinging.

Finally, there is the story. Children of the Sun is very much a “gameplay forward” sort of game, but it also tells a really interesting story. Between several levels, there are short, spastic, chaotic cutscenes that use a sort of comic book art style to tell you who you are and why you are hunting down the members of the cult. These cutscenes are fantastic, but for the most part, the vignettes you are assaulting feel fairly disconnected from the plot. Like, the cutscenes are about the cult and you are shooting members of the cult, but the cutscenes do not explain, for example, why a handful of cult members are driving around in circles while their heavily armored co-cultists watch.

But who cares? Shooting them still looks, sounds, and feels great.

Final Thoughts

Everything works to make children of the sun super addicting.

It took me just over 6 hours to play through Children of the Sun. For the most part, that was just playing straight through, but even in trying to finish the game for review, I found myself pausing to replay levels to try to climb the pre-release leaderboards (since I'll have no shot at them once the wider community starts playing).

This game isn’t just fun to play, it is engaging. It is addicting. I've been struggling a bit with how I feel about Balatro, because that game is massively addicting but without a driving “reason to play” that makes me feel good about the time I spend with it. Children of the Sun is nearly as addictive but is designed in a way where I always feel like I’m walking away from a session with new stories. Sometimes that’s the actual plot progression, but just as often it is my own story of figuring out how to solve a level in the most efficient way possible.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Headshots

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Quick View
Title:Children of the Sun
Release Date:April 9, 2024
ESRB Rating:Rating Pending, but it'll be Mature
Number of Players:1
Publisher/Developer:René Rother and Devolver Digital
How Long to Beat:5+ Hours
Recommended for fans of:Superhot, Sniping, and Meticulous Planning
Geek to Geek Media was provided with a review copy of this title.

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