Take To The Skies In Thatgamecompany’s New iOS Hit Sky: Children of the Light
01 Aug, 2019
Sky: Children of the Light is a meditative journey through worlds of sun and cloud, forest and grassland. The latest offering from Thatgamecompany, the group behind Journey, Flower and Flow, Sky provides an intriguing approach to the multiplayer experience that goes far deeper than the game’s casual, puzzle-based foundations.
You begin as a short, white-haired sprite with an excellent cape, which doubles as a set of wings. Your life revolves around “flame,” a resource granted by candles, floating lights and bobbing jellyfish creatures. Flame grants you the power to fly, and fly you do, soaring over stone structures and rock-strewn streams nimble as a fairy.
Like most RPGS, Sky is a game of exploration and experimentation. You’ll follow pinpoints of light as they dance past crumbling obelisks, over grassy plains and through rain-soaked forests. Collect flame as you go to revive fatigued spirits, ghostly sprites who populate the hillsides and temples in hopes of finding someone to perk them up.
When you’re not running after sparks, you’re flying from area to area through an archipelago of cloud islands, or ranging over grassland to find caverns inhabited by elusive light beings. Along the way, you’ll solve various puzzles to unlock new areas, in the process upgrading your flying abilities.
None of this really matters, though. Sure, you’ll collect light, revive phantasms and learn to fly, but the core of Sky comes in your interactions with other players, where there is real depth beneath the surface.
Sky isn’t exactly an MMO, but the multiplayer aspect of the game is intriguing. It’ll be familiar to fans of Journey, Thatgamecompany’s 2012 PS3 classic and another game that brought non-verbal communication to the foreground of multiplayer.
Like Journey before it, Sky strips the multiplayer experience of almost everything we associate with interpersonal relationships, things like language and appearance that communicate our values and opinions. The game gently pushes you to complete tasks in collaboration with other players, but it never seems like effort. I experienced one beautiful moment with three other players in Daylight Prairie; without communicating, we acted in concert to revive a phantom giant, dancing together behind a swirl of sparkles. It was wonderfully organic and surprising, but it didn’t feel as though we’d interacted with one another. What it felt like was serendipity; we’d all gathered in the right place, at the right time, to witness a wonderful happening.
Though not rare, I wish the game fostered even more of these moments, rather than falling back on the solitary experience of exploring the game’s environments. While there are opportunities throughout the game to chat with other players, I preferred the sense of wordless collaboration, in keeping with the game’s aesthetic, that came from completing tasks with other players. Sky casts a wordless, meditative spell; I felt that verbal communication interrupted the trance.
Fundamentally, Sky: Children of the Light is a world of suggestion, a place where glimmers of light coalesce in allusion to the human form. It’s a game that gestures at narrative, but refuses to deliver a plot. Your goal, in most areas, is no more than to find the source of Ancient Power, whatever that means. In no sense does the game force you to play it; it’s a casual way to fill a few hours, a game for the subway ride home. You certainly don’t come to this game for character development. It can feel purposeless, too, despite the simple instructions given for each new environment. Few particular achievements feel meaningful, and I admit to having been bored at times. But it’s also a world in which you can get lost for a few hours, and that’s not nothing.
Sky: Children of the Light debuted exclusively for iOS on July 18, 2019. Currently available through the App Store, there are plans to bring the game to Android, PC and consoles in the future.