Children of the Sun Key Art
Image via Devolver Digital.

Children of the Sun Review | More Than Meets the Bullet

One bullet and about a dozen heads asking to be pierced.

When I first launched Children of the Sun, I was skeptical about how well this game could pull its idea off. On the surface, a tactical third-person puzzle shooter, as the Steam page itself puts it, invites a lot of potential issues in both longevity and depth. A lot of developers often love having unique ideas like this, but at least in my case, often stretch the idea for much longer than it’s worth and with not enough to keep its idea going. Children of the Sun is not one of those games, presenting an interesting idea with enough depth to last its runtime without going any longer than it needs to.

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A Cult, a Girl, and the Power of Vengeance

Children of the Sun Girl in Dream World
Image via Devolver Digital

For the unaware, Children of the Sun follows The Girl, a mysterious woman who’s found herself waging a war against The Cult and its head, The Leader. Along the way, you uncover the truth linking her to this cult, and the various secret rituals they perform in the name of their twisted vision. While you’re only armed with a sniper rifle and a single bullet, that bullet isn’t quite what it seems, able to bounce from enemy to enemy if you play your cards right.

While told uniquely, I do admittedly find the story of Children of the Sun to be the weakest part by far. The plot is told almost entirely through a series of images quickly flashed before your eyes which reflect the main character’s damaged mental state. This is a great concept in theory, but it often does nothing more than drum up more confusion than you started with. I was able to somewhat piece things together by the end, but it left the door open to a ton of questions that didn’t so much breed curiosity and theory-crafting as they did confusion.

Every level is a tactician’s playground, seeing you mark various targets across the map, find a good route between them, and execute that plan to immense satisfaction.

Still, I can’t dwell too much on this since it’s such a small part of Children of the Sun. However, I couldn’t help but wonder what the plot could’ve been had the storytelling been a touch more direct.

One Bullet With Shocking Versatility

Children of the Sun Train Yard
Image via Devolver Digital.

Where Children of the Sun instead shines brightest, ironically given my expectations, is in its puzzle mechanics. You may only have one bullet, but the ability to bounce it from head to head with a satisfying boom underscoring each shot doesn’t get old. This, combined with the satisfaction of finding the most optimal path to hit each head only further adds to the enjoyment.

But what sends it to the next level is how Children of the Sun consistently introduces powers that never feel underutilized or overly complex. A lot of issues with games in general stem from a list of abilities that often devolve into you using just a couple of your faves while never seeing a good reason to experiment with the rest. Thanks in part to each ability playing a key role in taking down certain and stronger enemies, you’re consistently using your entire kit to complete missions while never getting tired of using a certain skill. One of my favorites is the first power you get, letting you control the bullet mid-flight slightly and adjust for anything you may not have considered upon pulling the trigger. It oddly reminded me of Bulletstorm’s sniper, which let you adjust mid-flight so you could smoke your target.

While it’s not something everyone will explore, I also appreciated the added challenges to complete on certain levels. These challenges are hinted at through white text and are unique for every level, leaving extra content for people like myself who want to garner some additional mileage out of the game. They aren’t necessary either, so if you’re getting frustrated with a particular challenge or don’t want to take one on, it’s never necessary.

All of this together truly makes the tactical third-person puzzle shooter genre I mentioned at the beginning about as apt as I could imagine. Every level is a tactician’s playground, seeing you mark various targets (which is yet another great feature) across the map, find a good route between them, and execute that plan to immense satisfaction. While there are some minor gripes I have with one of the abilities, these are insignificant compared to how much this game gets right. While I went in expecting it to satisfy while proving unremarkable, Children of the Sun showed some impressive restraint that helped it keep its short runtime consistently fresh and fun.

Oddly Specific Artistic Influences

Children of the Sun Girl Aiming at Village
Image via Devolver Digital.

If I had to quickly describe the atmosphere of Children of the Sun, my description would be less than conventional. While an incredibly strange comparison, a lot of its sound design and art style reminded me of two other Devolver titles, Ape Out and Boomerang X (both of which I’m also a fan of). Boomerang X carries over the art, using a simplistic art style that accentuates colors to help contrast enemies off its background, something that Children of the Sun doesn’t do as starkly, but still works well. It also goes in a much grittier direction, complementing its grim tale of revenge.

As for the Ape Out comparison, both games have shockingly similar sound design that complements each other for entirely different reasons. Where Ape Out’s bold and brash sounds go with your ape’s more brutish stampede against foes, Children of the Sun’s aggressive soundscape adds to the mental state of the main character, as they slaughter dozens of people without as much of a second thought. I can’t remember the last time comparisons like these made sense for me, but they do here.

However, I’m not entirely in love with the game’s lack of music. While I can forgive it since it was a solo dev making this project, the few tracks the game has blended with nothing feeling quite memorable. Even if it was just one different track for the multi-layered final stage, I would’ve loved to see something to surprise on that front.

A Welcome Trip to Hell and Back

Children of the Sun Gas Station
Image via Devolver Digital.

Despite some smaller gripes, Children of the Sun is yet another welcome surprise from publisher Devolver Digital. It’s a game you wouldn’t expect to succeed given how many others have failed similar ideas miserably, but thanks to a great gameplay flow, tightly designed powers, and a consistent sense of challenge, it stands well above the rest. If you want a challenging puzzler and enjoy yourself the odd shooter, Children of the Sun is a passionate title you’ll want to set your sights on.

8.5
Children of the Sun
Children of the Sun is an inventive puzzle shooter that knows how to constantly reinvent its core mechanic, while not stretching its idea too thin. It has the odd rough edge, but it's easily one of Devolver Digital's better experiences.
Pros
  • Consistently inventive mechanics
  • Not too short, not too long
  • Unique artistic influences
Cons
  • Story is a bit messy to comprehend
  • One or two mechanics can be a little finicky
  • Lack of music
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review. Reviewed on PC.

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Author
Shawn Robinson
Shawn is a freelance gaming journalist who's been with Prima Games for a year and a half, writing mainly about FPS games and RPGs. He even brings several years of experience at other sites like The Nerd Stash to the table. While he doesn't bring a fancy degree to the table, he brings immense attention to detail with his guides, reviews, and news, leveraging his decade and a half of gaming knowledge. If he isn't writing about games, he's likely getting zero kills in his favorite FPS or yelling at the game when it was 100% his fault that he died.
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