Children of the Sun Review – Spot on

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    Children of the Sun are hellbent on occupying your mind. During the six hours it took me to earn credits, I was engrossed in mastering its simple yet surprisingly functional core mechanic. At first, killing dozens of cultists with just one bullet was a fun trick. As time went on, I became obsessed with pushing the tools at my disposal to their limits, repeatedly using people as target practice until I had devised a satisfactory assassination plan. .

    Introduced as a puzzle shooter, in Children of the Sun you take on the role of a young woman who loses her family after joining a cult with terrible names. Using just one shot from your sniper rifle, you slay through more than 20 levels until you’ve taken them all down in quick order. As you progress, the foundation gains in complexity with special enemies that require different strategies as well as a handful of abilities around the bullet.

    It’s easy to see the influence of the likes of Killer7, Sniper Elite, and later Hitman games. But there are echoes of Ghost Truck: Phantom Detective too, imbuing inanimate objects with uncanny force to interact with the environment and people’s bodies for your benefit.

    At the start of the level, you only get a narrow view of the entire map, so to speak. Ideally, you want to tag each cultist before pulling the trigger, so you can plan ahead of time – like scanning a room at Hotline Miami before kicking in the door. More often than not, you need to kill some of them first just to tag others or get a better view at the very end of an area. This makes for a great research step that doesn’t frustrate you but encourages you to fail until you gather all the visual information you need.

    Time slows down when you shoot. Once you hit a target it stops completely. This gives you some breathing room, and a chance to get a different perspective. You can shoot birds to gain altitude or gas tanks to find an angle that allows you to continue chaining targets, for example. Still, you’re rewarded by a scoring system for executing kills with style and aggression. This works in stark contrast to the research phase, which forces you to see if your plan can be executed quickly or if you need another strategy. There’s a leaderboard at the end of each level that motivates you to push this brutal trick, as well as confusing clues to uncover challenges.

    Children of the Sun’s sinister tone pairs well with its human gameplay. Shooting the arm gives you 25 points. Shooting gives 50 points. During a certain level the over-the-top violence becomes redundant after seeing the words “I Just Killed a Man, Now I’m Horny” before playing a Pac-Man-style mini-game. The abrasive tone never comes off as mere window dressing for the sake of shock value, but thrives on its obnoxiousness.

    Both visual and sound design works create an awe-inspiring sensory stimulus. There were times when I felt underwater, zipping from one corner of the ocean to the other as bullet pierced head after head, as waves crashed into each other. The effect of the late-game ability, which allows you to increase the speed of the shot, sounds like a distorted electric guitar on edge with an effect pedal.

    Children of the Sun is a perfect example of an experiment that was born from a simple premise and then repeated for the right amount of time before losing its focus. On occasion, the main mechanic can’t sustain itself – I missed more than a few subtle shots that should have landed, forcing me to try again. But once you successfully execute the strategy and finish a level, the satisfaction is unparalleled. You then try to replicate the feeling during subsequent hunts, completely detached from the messiness of your actions as you chase the high score.

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