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Children of the Sun review – Cult hit

Children of the Sun review 2
Image: René Rother/Devolver Digital

With your life ruined by a sinister cult, Children of the Sun tasks you with just one thing: get your revenge. A one-girl army, the odds seem stacked against you. But armed with a sniper rifle and the ability to guide its bullets, and you’re ready to take pretty much anything on.

The work of solo developer René Rother, the presentation of Children of the Sun is reminiscent of titles created by Suda51. It has a grungy, punky aesthetic, with somewhat abstract and dark visuals, a scratchy, noisy soundtrack, and a story that’s laid out in an abstract manner that makes you think. It’s surreal, but all the better for it. When you begin playing, however, you realise that there’s nothing else like it.

Split into some 20-odd levels, your one-woman army’s goal in each is simple: kill all the cult members ahead of you. The problem is, you can only fire one bullet. There are two stages to each level, then. First, by moving around the periphery of the level, you need to locate and tag as many enemies as you possibly can — sometimes not all of them are visible despite your best efforts. Second is finally pulling the trigger on your rifle, then guiding your bullet from one target to another until all have been killed. Needless to say, it’s not always an easy task.

Children of the Sun review 1
Image: René Rother/Devolver Digital

There’s a reason why Children of the Sun is described as a tactical puzzle-shooter, and that’s because working out how you’re going to hit all of your targets here is the most challenging thing above everything else. Early levels are a walk in the park, allowing you to mark all of your enemies pretty easily and then guide your bullet from one to another without any fuss. It’s when you reach levels where some enemies remain hidden no matter how much you move around in the preparation stage, and when other technicalities are brought into play that Children of the Sun really makes you start scratching your head.

It’s in those levels that you sometimes have to wing it, trying to spot hidden enemies as your bullet hits the enemies you have marked. You also gain some helpful abilities on your journey that give you an advantage over your adversaries. You quickly gain the ability to somewhat alter the direction of your bullets in mid-air, for example, allowing you to curve your bullets around doors or other obstacles. Kill two enemies by hitting their weak points and you can freely re-aim your bullet in mid-air, too.

Sometimes even these nifty abilities aren’t enough, however. Sometimes you need to be creative. Hitting the gas tank of a vehicle can not only kill any enemies caught in the blast, but also allows you to re-aim your bullet even if no enemies are killed. The same goes for hitting other explosives such as gas canisters. Such targets are handy when eventually taking on armoured adversaries that require you to speed up your bullet as it travels in order to kill them – if you don’t have distance, it’s nearly impossible.

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Image: René Rother/Devolver Digital

It’ll take around five hours to complete all levels in Children of the Sun, but thanks to a scoring system that rewards quick and skilful play and online leaderboards, some will get many more hours of enjoyment out of it. It does get a tad repetitive as you go on – the gameplay doesn’t evolve that much, after all – but there’s just enough variety in the levels to keep you invested. Your interest will mostly wane in those levels where you need to track down one or more enemies after firing your bullet – it can result in trial and error which is hardly ever rewarding.

These issues are minor, though, and with its intriguing presentation and unique gameplay, Children of the Sun should be seen as nothing other than a triumph for René Rother. This is a game that will make you think, and as you guide your bullet from one target to the next across its many levels, you’ll no doubt be impressed by its atmosphere, its premise and its execution. Taking down a cult with a rifle has never been so cerebral.

This review of Children of the Sun was facilitated by a code provided by the game’s publisher. It’s available on PC.

Children of the Sun review - GameSpew's Score

Children of the Sun
8 10 0 1
The puzzle-shooter gameplay and bizarre presentation of Children of the Sun make it utterly unique. And while your success in some levels unfortunately relies on trial and error, it doesn't stop it from being a highly rewarding experience on the whole.
The puzzle-shooter gameplay and bizarre presentation of Children of the Sun make it utterly unique. And while your success in some levels unfortunately relies on trial and error, it doesn't stop it from being a highly rewarding experience on the whole.
8/10
Total Score

We liked...

  • Grungy, punky presentation
  • Unique puzzle-shooter gameplay
  • Scoring system and online leaderboards provide longevity

We didn't like...

  • Some levels rely on trial and error
Editor in Chief // An avid gamer since discovering the wonders of the Acorn Electron in the '80s, Rich has nearly played more games than he's had hot dinners. Not one to put all his eggs in one basket, Rich is happy to play games of all genres, but he particularly enjoys racing games and anything that's full of non-stop action, especially if it includes a good dose of humour, horror or crudeness!