Children of the Sun

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Children of the Sun


Revenge Served One Bullet At A Time

EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
If you've ever watched one of the dozens of true crime documentaries about dangerous cults and wondered why someone didn't simply develop psychic powers and take them out, Children of the Sun may be the game for you. Known for games like Hotline Miami and Carrion, publisher Devolver Digital is no stranger to the dark or creepy, but developer René Rother's puzzle shooter is wholly unnerving, abstract, and a ton of fun. I was able to sit down with a preview build of Children of the Sun to get a taste of what the full game will offer, and I came away terribly excited to play more.

Cults And Darkness

As mentioned, Children of the Sun isn't for the faint of heart and, in addition to its stylized violence, touched on a wide range of potentially sensitive subjects like suicide and sexual assault in the hour and a half or so of content I got access to. The story is told through some very brief cut-scenes, and what's going on isn't immediately clear, but players step into the shoes of a protagonist simply called The Girl as she seeks revenge on The Cult that ruined her life. The opening cut scene shows vague recreations of a family being torn apart and a very un-vague suicide by rifle, and it's after the latter that The Girl takes matters into her own hands.

From there, the story comes relatively slow through occasional stylized cut scenes, and while the full game will likely make more specific revelations about the nature of The Cult, I didn't hate keeping the story a bit abstract and more atmospheric than detailed. Notes for the full game promise that The Girl will discover details of The Cult's horrific actions as she carves her way to kill The Leader. I hope that the game doesn't ultimately explain too much, as the hitherto unexplained bits of mysticism, like telekinetic abilities and floating objects, were some of the more intriguing parts of the preview build.

Preparing The Perfect Bloodbath

Of course, the cult-driven revenge story is just window dressing for what's a quite clever puzzle game that is a blast even apart from the wider narrative. Each short level is a contained environment filled with cult members, and The Girl begins on the outskirts with her rifle and one bullet. Only having one shot to take out up to nine enemies (the highest number I encountered in this build) may seem impossible, but The Girl packs three impressive abilities that make it easier. First, and most notably, every time a bullet hits an enemy, that location becomes the new nexus from which the bullet can be "re-shot" in a sort of fancy, guided ricochet. Then, throughout the available levels, The Girl unlocks the ability to subtly bend bullet trajectory and then later fully redirect bullets mid-air after they kill subsequent enemies.

The setup makes each encounter an interesting mix of preparation and execution not dissimilar in spirit from something like Superhot. It's important to scope out each location from the perimeter and mark enemies to keep them visible when the bullet starts flying, and planning which enemy to hit next to keep lines of sight open to further enemies is a wildly fun challenge. Moreover, I never felt like I was stuck because I couldn’t find one predetermined solution. Especially as the missions start to involve more moving parts and larger environments, I really felt like I was being rewarded for my creativity.

Replayability And Waiting For More

While each mission in Children of the Sun is short, the game smartly sets itself up to take advantage of replayability and competition. Succeeding in killing everyone in a level isn't enough; instead, points are given for shot distance, body parts hit, and the speed between shots. Players' scores are immediately placed on a leaderboard after success, instigating the desire to jump back in and re-complete the mission just a little better.

The dark and more than a little disturbing narrative frame of Children of the Sun won't be for everyone, but the core gameplay concepts are solid enough that those who aren't into it may want to consider simply skipping the cut-scenes for what is undeniably clever. For those who are intrigued by the dark cult storyline, the narrative backdrop is icing on an already very tasty cake. I already plan to jump back into my Children of the Sun preview built to climb the leaderboards, and I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for more updates as the game's as-of-yet vague 2024 release date approaches.

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There are no guarantees - but we'd bet our own money on this one. If you're going to take a chance with yours, odds are good this one will deliver.

Hooked Gamer's Steam Early Access forecasts are intended to help you differentiate between Early Access games that have the potential to blossom and those more likely to fail. We look at the team's ambitions, their track record, and the state of the latest build to predict if opening your wallet will help fund a potentially great game, or is better used to light other fires.