Children of the Sun is a Killer App

Children of the Sun Preview

Have you ever noticed that most games are like, well, other games? I mean, it’s pretty obvious. Originality is maybe not in short supply, but you have to go searching beyond the marquee releases to find it. Which brings us to Children of the Sun. A solo effort by René Rother and published by Devolver Digital, Children of the Sun looks and plays like something different and unexpected.

A Shot to the Head

Children of the Sun is a sniper game. Well, it’s actually more like a puzzle game with brutal, violent sniping mechanics. There’s a bit of stealth mixed in, too, and a competitive angle that guarantees replay value. It’s a game with style to match its mechanics and substance.

So, what the hell am I talking about? Children of the Sun is a third-person shooter, in which you are the survivor of a repressive religious cult, out for revenge. You play as THE GIRL, whose life was ruined by THE CULT, and your ultimate goal is to assassinate THE LEADER. In between stages, there are illustrations from the violent, twisted history of THE CULT, giving your actions a bit of context. I only had the chance to play a few stages, so I’m curious to see how the narrative ultimately develops.

I’d hesitate to say that the story is really just window dressing for the game’s mechanics, but the action is definitely the focus. In each stage, the player character paces at a distance from groups of cultists, glowing with a golden light. You take note of the number and location of each enemy, and most critically, the environment. You need to plan your shot because once you fire, the level timer starts.

There’s just one bullet in the rifle. If you hit your target, you re-aim for the next cultist. If you miss the target or accidentally hit something solid, you fail the level. The goal is to clear the stage of all the cultists in the fastest and most efficient way possible. You’re scored at the end and your place on the leaderboard says it all.

Head Scratcher

Most sniper games — from Hitman to Killer7 — include some sort of puzzle elements, but Children of the Sun leans into environmental puzzles pretty hard. Shoot a car’s gas tank and you can take out several nearby enemies, for example. As the game progresses, there are both more obstacles but also more ways to use the items in the world to your advantage. Children of the Sun is not an RPG. You’re not upgrading your gear, but you discover and use more complex ways of managing your shots.

Additionally, there are some other elements that add to the challenge. It isn’t just enough to hit the target. If you really want to climb the leaderboard, you need to work quickly and aim for deadly headshots if possible. From the character’s vantage point, it isn’t always possible to see the spatial relationships of all targets. And after you hit the first cultist, the others start to flee in slow motion, so there’s that added complication.  Aside from the first tutorial stage, it took multiple attempts before I was anything close to being satisfied by my performance.

If Looks Could Kill

When it comes to art and audio, Children of the Sun makes some bold choices that, frankly, might not appeal to everyone. The narrative illustrations are in a comic book style, but the game itself uses a vibrantly colorful, highly stylized approach that reduces the cult member targets to glowing figures with minimal detail. The environments are likewise stylized. There are moments — and purposely so, I assume — where the figures blend unreadably into glowing campfires, making it extra difficult to plan shots.

Children of the Sun’s music is likewise bold, focusing on electronic and industrial sounds and textures, with a particularly effective cymbal crash when bullet meets target. I wouldn’t listen to the soundtrack as a standalone experience, but it fits the style, action, and mood of the game perfectly.

Children of the Sun is a single-player game, but the leaderboard reminds you how you fared. If that’s a motivation for you, you’ll find the game to be obsessively replayable as you chase a better score and position on the board. That doesn’t do anything for me personally, but I was still plenty motivated to try different solutions to each level’s sniping puzzles.

I appreciate something new and different, and Children of the Sun checks those boxes. It’s stylish and it has short, addictive levels that get plenty challenging pretty early on. I’m looking forward to unlocking the full game as it moves closer to release.

Thank you for keeping it locked on COGconnected.

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