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Children of the Sun Review

All you need is one

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The indie game market is where players often go to seek out novel ideas. Sometimes, those ideas are rough copies of what other games have already done, but at other times, you discover something new and interesting. It could be a new spin of a well-known formula, or something completely original. Children of the Sun takes an interesting approach by combining sniping mechanics with a puzzle game, creating a third-person puzzle game where you only get one opportunity to eliminate all targets.

Children of the Sun game

The storyline is loosely communicated through a few brief cutscenes, as visuals flash by with no words spoken. Through the flashing scenes, that have an adult-cartoon visual style, it can be gleamed that a family got involved with a cult called Children of the Sun, but over the years things went sideways. After years of apparent suffering at the hands of the cult and its leader, the main character only known as The Girl arrives to find her father end his life with a rifle. This sets her into a rage, and as a mask-wearing lunatic herself, she grabs that same rifle and sets upon a journey of revenge against the cult.

While the short visual scenes throughout the game provide some small insights into the narrative, they feel largely disconnected from the levels. The title is split into standalone levels with different settings, from a forest camp, a military style outpost, and a motel, to an apartment block, a rail yard, and a graveyard. What happens in the cutscenes does not really translate to the locations where the game takes place, though it's not a big issue for a puzzle game such as this.

And Children of the Sun is indeed a puzzle game, despite its appearance of a sniping experience. Each level presents the Girl with the simple objective of eliminating all targets – a number clearly indicates how many enemies there are. You move around the 3D level on a fixed 2D plane, in order to adjust the aim of your first shot. Sometimes you can circle the whole map, and other times you're very limited in your angle of attack. And that first shot is all you get – because all enemies must be eliminated using a single bullet. It's an apparent special ability that the Girl discovered while growing up, and must now use to trim the ranks of the cultists.

After firing, the bullet can be controlled through a couple of different mechanics. Each time you hit a target – which can be a cultist, or an explosive can or car gas tank, or a bird in the sky – it becomes your new vantage point. Time slows and the bullet hangs in the air, so you can freely look around to select your next victim. The experience can be compared to hopping between cameras in Watch Dogs, or pretending that you're the superhero Yondu with his single arrow, or you're re-watching Wanted from 2008. You must chart a course between each target that bypasses any obstacles, sometimes ventures through indoor areas, and always has another target in sight. It is possible to get "stuck" by shooting targets in the wrong order. Using secondary targets such as the cars and birds becomes vital as they provide new vantage points.

Children of the Sun game

As the game progresses, more flexibility and strategy are added to the bullet controls. You gain an ability to slightly slow down time and make trajectory adjustments, to bend the bullet around obstacles, or hit weak points with extra precision. The angle of adjustment is limited, but is big enough to be useful, and this ability can be used as much as needed. The second main mechanic lets you slow down time and completely re-orient the bullet mid-flight. However, this ability can only be activated once you've hit at least two enemies in their glowing weakpoints, and is single-use. The third mechanic is a power shot, which must be used against armored enemies. This mechanic can be used anytime, but it requires some distance for the bullet to generate enough speed to be effective. While you can calmly reorient yourself after hitting a target as the bullet hangs in the air, the other powers only slow down time as the bullet is still moving, so the game does still have an element of precision and quick thinking that is required.

Children of the Sun uses only the mouse for control – to run side to side on the map you move the mouse in the desired direction, and to aim and activate the abilities, only the left and right mouse click are used. This works fine for the most part, but takes a little getting used to – like entering the aim mode is done with left mouse click. Another caveat is that while you can zoom before firing, once the bullet is in flight, you lose that ability, and so hopping between distant targets can be a bit challenging and requires the use of the trajectory adjustment power to avoid misses.

Enemies come in a few varieties – regular cultists that perish from one hit anywhere on the body, but who have the glowing weakpoints to earn the special ability. Another enemy type are the armored foes, and they can only be taken out with power shots that need sufficient flight time from the last target to power up. Yet another enemy group carries shields, which means they can only be damaged from the sides or behind. The final and trickiest enemy type are the spirit leaders, who have an aura around them that pushes your bullets outwards. You must fly through this aura in order to deplete it, so the only way to eliminate them is having the redirect ability charged after you do so. You must quickly return to the enemy while the aura is recharging – which only takes a few moments, even in bullet time.

All of these bullet mechanics come together to create some rather entertaining scenarios and puzzles to solve. You can either plan your path in advance, or just start firing shots /attempts and trying to dynamically figure out the situation. Before taking the shot, you can tag enemies in order to keep track of them, as they do move around and create a dynamic feel to the levels. On many levels you don't have a direct view of every enemy, so you will have to think in-flight and attack new targets as they are revealed. Helpfully, any enemies you eliminate get tagged for subsequent attempts. If your bullet hits an obstacle or edge of the map, the level can be quickly restarted.

Children of the Sun game

In a way, the dynamism of the levels is reminiscent of Superhot, in that every attempt at solving the level can feel a little different. Enemies could be walking around, driving in a car, or there could be obstacles such as moving trains. There are many ways to approach every level, as you can choose to try and go directly between each target, or try to use every interactive object (birds, cars, gas tanks) as your jump points. There is no single "correct answer," and many approaches can be used. The game keeps introducing new interesting layouts and mechanics, though it's only the final few levels that pose a challenge and require more than a few attempts. For the rest of the game, the biggest problem is not solving the bullet path, but rather just finding the last enemy as they are standing in an obscured location or indoors.

The standalone levels are unlocked in a linear fashion across the campaign, and you can return to any level previously completed. There is a score system to encourage replayability – you are scored based on time taken, the manner and speed in which you eliminate targets, and so on. The scores are tallied together on online leaderboards. Each level also includes a bonus challenge, such as using a specific method of eliminating an enemy (by making your bullet fly through fire), or eliminating them before they leave the area. In a neat screen at the end of each successful level completion, you get an overhead visual of the path the bullet took. On a couple of occasions, strange and poorly handled minigames break up the flow of the levels.

While the game keeps your attention and gradually introduces new twists, it does feel like it's over a bit too quickly. The whole thing can be completed in under 4 hours, including the numerous retries and strategizing on the final couple of levels. And while that means it doesn't outstay its welcome, it also feels a little light on content. A few more levels and scenarios to beef up the length would have been welcome, especially in the middle. However, considering the game is priced at $15 USD, it just says more about the good quality of the experience than the lack of value.

The visuals are not overly impressive, but on par for the asking price. The game has a very dark and psychedelic tone, with lots of brash music and soundtrack effects, slightly pixelated visuals, and moody environments that often have hints of the supernatural, such as enemies having glowing eyes and some levels featuring floating cars and debris. It's a bit like the thematic opposite of the clean and bright Superhot setting. Still, even with the stylized art, some elements are a bit too crude – like when on occasion the camera shows off the levels or The Girl, and parts of the level are simply clipping through objects; in a minigame moment, while you are polishing the rifle, the hand of the character just passes right through the barrel. While there were no performance issues observed, some UI elements got stuck on occasion.

Children of the Sun game

Children of the Sun takes a few fairly well-established gameplay mechanics, and transports them into a new setting. Sniping games have their own corner of the market well established, and puzzle games where players bounce between specific points is also a path often travelled, but combining these two aspects is a novel idea. And it's an idea that the game executes quite well. The levels are fun to engage with and the movement of targets and debris adds a dynamic aspect. With good variety and some surrealist elements, it makes for a memorable and dark tale of revenge.

Our ratings for Children of the Sun on PC out of 100 (Ratings FAQ)
Presentation
75
The dark and psychedelic theme works well, and the visuals are okay for the price point.
Gameplay
83
A great combination of puzzle and sniping, the title takes some well-worn mechanics and transports them into a new and engaging mix.
Single Player
74
The levels feature good variety, but the game wraps up just as things start to get tough and interesting. It's fair for the price, but it leaves you wanting more - another level or two instead of the bad minigames would have been preferred.
Multiplayer
NR
None
Performance
(Show PC Specs)
CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 5700X
GPU: AMD 6700 XT 12GB
RAM: 16GB DDR4
OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
PC Specs

80
A few UI elements got stuck on occasion, but otherwise no major issues.
Overall
80
Children of the Sun is a dark and engaging puzzle that successfully transports familiar mechanics into a fresh setting at the speed of a flying bullet.
Comments
Children of the Sun
Children of the Sun box art Platform:
PC
Our Review of Children of the Sun
80%
Great
The Verdict:
Game Ranking
Children of the Sun is ranked #546 out of 1980 total reviewed games. It is ranked #7 out of 34 games reviewed in 2024.
545. Minami Lane
PC
546. Children of the Sun
547. The Messenger
PC
Screenshots

Children of the Sun
10 images added 46 days ago
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