Children of the Sun is ‘connect the dots’ with a sniper rifle

“That’s not how bullets work” is probably the last thing, beside the bullet, passing through the head of most of the enemies in Children of the Sun, a game where you can redirect your single bullet after it tastes destruction.

Children of the Sun oozes a grungy, uncomfortable style full of scratchy shadows, broken characters and shooter-puzzle death. Even its brightest levels are bright through purple or red skys, sunsets and sunrises pockmarked with the yellows and oranges of fire, lights and the titular cult that you’re seeking revenge on. You play as The Girl, so full of thirst for revenge and justice that there is nothing else left for them.

The Children of the Sun destroyed your home, then they destroyed your family, then they tried to destroy you. At some point you picked up the ability to use psychokinesis to control bullets, and each time you rock up on a cult encampment, convoy or base you just happen to have precisely one bullet.

That means that you’ve got to steer the bullet from enemy to enemy, clearing the level in one go. That’s why I said Shooter-Puzzle earlier, because you’re tracing your way around the map trying to get each and every enemy in the scene. Thankfully, you can slide along the outskirts of most of the levels and tag enemies both then and while your attempts are in progress — and those tags persist between attempts.

Children of the Sun

There’s more than just cult members to shoot though; There are a few things like animals, fuel caps and explosive containers that you can shoot too, and remembering this is key to making sure you can navigate the level mid-shot each time. You also gain a few skills along the way, allowing you to tweak your flight-path, re-aim the bullet in mid-air and boost the bullet speed so that you can punch through armoured enemies. That’s handy, because enemies do armour up, or carry shields increasingly as Children of the Sun progresses — there are even, near the end of the campaign — enemies that have shields that divert your first shot away from them.

It feels like this concept was born out of somebody conceptualising a game where you briefly got to control the character you shot, allowing them to shoot somebody else; That or something that allowed you to Dominos-Style set up characters to shoot one-another as you shot them. That and, in many ways, it feels similar to Superhot through the fact that while enemies react, they hardly move while your bullet is in flight.

There’s a grim satisfaction that comes from pulling off the nigh-simultaneous assassination of a bunch of baddies, however, for a game that plays around with a traumatic origin story and even features minigames and symbolic dream-sequences, it’s all over really quickly. Sure, there are challenges on most levels, and there are leaderboards for each one (including ones where you can’t score, admittedly), but these aren’t really particularly strong hooks for replayability. Online leaderboards are great, but if they’re presented immediately then they quickly dissolve any feeling of accomplishment — the addition of a par, or rating system for the level, and an option to then view the leaderboards, would have likely added more immediate replayability.

There’s a gameplay loop here that feels great though. It goes Scout. Tag. Assault. The scouting phase is kind of a puzzle in its own way, where you can slide around the outside of the base, tagging people and cancelling down, trying to find the best shot. In a way it feels like scouting out an installation or encampment in an open-world game, although you’re hard locked to moving left or right. Tagging ties into both, but isn’t truly complete (especially in the later levels) until you’ve explored from more angles. Assault is when you blast away, trying to find that best path. The thing is, that simple loop at the start quickly blurs, because you can tag while you’re in transit as a bullet and retain that information for your restart.

If you’re looking for a very cool puzzle-shooter then you don’t need to look any further: Children of the Sun is it. It has this incredible potential through its gameplay, scoring system and starting mechanic loop… but it all kind of blurs after a while. Maybe there’s a specific, leaderboard chaser, who will keep playing it again and again, but I can’t see myself rushing back to play this unless more content comes — that said, it’s really well priced for what is a solid 3-4 hour jaunt as a psychokinetic angel of vengeance.

Children of the Sun is available now for PC

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