Thatgamecompany is responsible for some of this medium’s most prideful and esteemed releases. Both Flower and Journey, co-developed with Sony Santa Monica, received universal acclaim for their gorgeous art style and refreshingly light-hearted mood in face of the traditional blood-smearing, over-the-top violence onlookers have expected of the genre. However, their latest release, Sky: Children of the Light, garnered both disinterest and backlash heading into release simply because of its transition to a new platform-mobile. Whilst both Flower and Journey were originally launched on consoles and later ported to PC on the Epic Games Store, and the developer has said that Sky will eventually make its way to those respective platforms, the game has a rare distinction in that it is bringing a massive gaming event experience to the mobile, a platform that is losing respect by the day. But Sky: Children of the Light undoubtedly vanquishes all concerns naysayers may proclaim. Beautiful, joyful, and a soulful glimpse of what makes the video game genre so unique, Thatgamecompany has crafted a true masterpiece-the single best interactive experience anyone can experience on the iPhone.
You begin as a nameless avatar, thrown into a stunning, stylized and just breathtaking world-the Isle of Dawn. The narrative is, like the developer’s other titles, told exclusively through visual and auditory cues. The gorgeous lighting guides you where you need to go, and freeing the countless spirits throughout the game is nothing short of thrilling. There’s a real heart to the campaign of Sky, one that evokes the same emotions as another title from earlier this year, Sea of Solitude. Both games are meticulously designed, with Sky featuring the best graphics and presentation of any game on the platform. Following a brief tutorial, the true meaning of Sky: Children of the Light comes into focus as the game, quite literally, takes flight.
Soaring through the clouds like an evangelic force never gets old and adds a layer of freedom to the gameplay that wasn’t present in Journey. Using the touch screen actually controls excellent, with even the softest touch being recognized and used. Brushing against clouds refreshes the player’s energy; the cape flies with outstanding attention to physics, and it all, once again, looks gorgeous. Looking at Sky’s presentation is comparable to staring at a modern work of art as it comes to life. There’s a nuanced look to every texture present, from the blowing sand to the swaying beads of grass, what Thatgamecompany has accomplished here is remarkable, especially given the underpowered hardware.
The biggest attraction of Sky’s gameplay is its multiplayer functionalities. Journey already laid a fantastic groundwork, creating what many cited as the most profound multiplayer experience they had ever stepped into. Sky takes that concept and cranks it to eleven. The base campaign can be completed lonesome, but to take in everything whatSky has to offer, the multiplayer component is critical. As the story progresses and the developers continue to peel back the many layers of the game, the real underlying message of the game comes into the light. It’s about friendly communication between utter strangers who could be on opposite sides of the planet. Using handpicked animations to greet and befriend other players, there’s a profoundness that eliminates all possibility for the experience to be ruined by other players. Players can only chat via this language, and it’s been specifically tailored to the game’s needs. Like Journey, Sky is a masterclass of the multiplayer genre and is the guiding light of how to create an experience with multiple players that isn’t drab or even potentially offensive. It’s just an honest, rich experience that I am more than grateful for.
As for the recurring monetization, I am thrilled to say that Sky makes yet another landmark in this area. As a free-to-play game that countless players have already taken advantage of, the microtransactions are surprisingly toned down, consisting mostly of cosmetics that aren’t crucial to either progression or the multiplayer components. And even in these cosmetics, there are no randomization or loot boxes, and for such a rich experience already, it’s shocking how Thatgamecompany didn’t respond to the obvious temptations of hideously monetizing the experience.
Sky: Children of the Light is a jaw-dropping and momentous achievement, a shining light of what the mobile platform and genre are capable of. It’s unquestionably my favorite interactive experience of the year so far, and it’s unlikely that anything will personally be able to top it. On top of already being such a grand and meticulously detailed experience, it has profound messages and idealistic goals that are nothing short of commendable. There’s nothing else like it on the market: a flawless, stirring, and jaw-dropping leap forward for a platform that’s on its last legs.