children of the sun

Children Of The Sun Review – A Dish Best Served Cold

If you had one shot, one opportunity.

Children of the Sun, the new Devolver Digital score attack gauntlet concocted by Rene Rother, certainly approaches the “murder puzzle” sub-genre that Deathloop popularised through its marketing very differently, but I’d also argue more effectively. You approach each scene with a singular rifle round that’s expected to rip through, with calculated precision, a band of acolytes, all serving the cult leader who betrayed you and left you with hunger pangs for the coldest dish of all—revenge. 

During my earlier preview for the game, I described it as being this year’s answer to Neon White, a game which took the industry by storm a few years back. The similarities end at the games both being score attack gauntlets, however, as Neon White’s sun soaked, heavenly vistas are juxtaposed aggressively by the oppressive bleakness of Children of the Sun. And while Neon White played like an acrobat’s wet dream through an anime-afterlife of sorts, Children of the Sun is about sadism and voyeurism as you stalk from a scene’s perimeter to ultimately surmise and execute both your plan and prey alike under the cover of darkness.

children of the sun

Rather than nimbly parkouring through a level as in Neon White, Children of the Sun’s core loop interestingly propels you, as a singular rifle round, at gathered ritualists in an attempt to “clear the board” so to speak. The cool thing is that, as the round, you have a staggering scope for agency, being able to freely re-aim upon each successful impact, whether that be into a cultist or a nearby environmental hazard to create a chain of carnage like a murderous take on Burnout’s Party Crash mode. As you draw closer to vengeance, you unlock some neat abilities that really do escalate the challenge and strategic aspects of the later stages. 

Although you’re able to bend a bullet’s trajectory mid-flight pretty early on, by the end you’ll be able penetrate armoured enemies with an express bullet that bends space-time with an intoxicating, kaleidoscopic majesty that’s punctuated by a gorgeous orchestral clash. Not only that, but chaining together shots targeting weak spots, signified by a mirrored disco ball effect on the limb, lets you re-aim a round mid-flight without the need of a successful impact. These do well to ensure the game’s established formula remains fresh throughout, though it’s the careful layout of each level, specifically the enemy placement, that makes it an engrossing puzzle to piece together on the fly (pun intended).

children of the sun

Having played the entirety of the game on a handheld, it’s unlikely I’d ever get near the leaderboard leaders with my “controller” set up. Speed is essential to maintaining multipliers and, with such a focus on reconfiguring trajectory, quick-turning is likely to be much snappier using a mouse. There is certainly enormous replay value for anyone looking to study the lay of the land and find the narrow, optimal path through the carnage to challenge for said top spots. The completion of each stage culminates with an overhead angle of the path your bullet took through it, it might not account for verticality and presents as two-dimensional, but capturing these charts can be handy for reference if you’re downing tools for the night but have a good thing going. The only thing better might be a means to save video replays directly, but this is certainly elegant enough. 

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The game’s story is doled out through animated storyboards that pop up and give context to most of the twenty-odd stages. It’s uncompromisingly violent and definitely ventures into dark, weird territory, but I think it ultimately paints The Girl with a sympathetic brush, framing her crusade as an archetypal war of good and bad even if she’s presented as an emotionless, detached killing machine who wouldn’t be out of place emerging from the waters of Crystal Lake. Although one could question how this game has its anti-hero process their trauma, I’d argue that the air of pure evil is so thick around her once-father figure that it almost excuses the grotesque revenge plot and justifies the body count that racks up along the way. 

children of the sun

In terms of presentation, Children of the Sun has a distinct and clear vision that’s communicated through what I’d call an economical graphics model. It isn’t the best looking game by a long chalk, but there’s an identity to it that’s irresistible, albeit a little tough to read given how dark things can be. There’s a visual language that emerges early on that’ll help with that however—the differently-coloured crosshairs to help distinguish targets, for example. And while I do feel The Girl’s model can look a little bad at times, the animation of her jogging the perimeter with an enormous fucking rifle on her hip never failed to make me chuckle—a rare moment of levity in what is ultimately a bleak title. And it’s a random thing to call out, but I adore Rother’s Old English font choice in this game because it lends so much to the tone struck which feels, at times, to riff on old-world barbarism. 

Children of the Sun’s audio design is visceral and in keeping with the unsettling vibe established by the rest of the game. The gunshots, of which you play an integral role as the bullet round, mightn’t be as frequent as your standard shooter but have a velocity to them that’s sold through the rifle’s bark, the way you cut through the air and, ultimately, the way you decimate your target. I do also love the swells that flourish and cymbals that crash dynamically with every head you pop. 

children of the sun

Children of the Sun is a phenomenal, moreish score attack gauntlet that is going to scratch the same itch that Neon White did in its time. It also serves as a home to a pretty uncomplicated tale of paternal vengeance that does enough to rationalise the ruthless violence at the black heart of Rene Rother’s indie hit.

Find it on Steam here.

children of the sun
Conclusion
As macabre as it is, Children of the Sun’s addictive leaderboard chase is sure to rekindle the competitive spirit in those who find themselves lapping up this world's darkness after having ventured heavenward in Neon White.
Positives
An addictive approach to the score attack gauntlet
A truly macabre setting
Great escalation of mechanics, strategy and challenge
Negatives
The game's way of capturing a stage's bullet path feels inadequate
A controller set up feels less optimal than keyboard and mouse
8.5