Children of the Sun Hands-on Preview – Waging a one-woman war

Posted on February 2, 2024

Devolver Digital and solo developer René Rother have just announced their latest project, Children of the Sun. This gritty and emotionally complex shooter embraces the macabre, the unusual, and the super stylish to bring a unique and at times uncomfortable experience to gamers’ fingertips.

Children of the Sun is part shooter and part puzzle game. You play as ‘The Girl’ on a revenge quest to take down a cult that ruined your life. The game is presented in arcade-style stages, where you find the perfect vantage point to take out your unsuspecting targets, look down your sniper scope, and pull the trigger. The real kicker here though is that all enemies must be taken out with a single bullet. Once the bullet is fired, the perspective swaps from third-person to what can only be described as ‘bullet vision’ as you follow the bullet’s trajectory from sniper barrel to human flesh. Upon successful impact, the bullet can then be re-aimed to find its next target.

Children of the Sun is graphic in its violent depiction but not in an uncomfortably realistic kind of way. As gamers, we are fairly desensitised to gun violence, so the game cleverly finds a new way to feel unsettling. This is achieved through warped and crunchy audio and visuals. Everything feels highly stylised but grim. Children of the Sun is deliberately ugly and grating in its aesthetic choices, as if every new kill pulls you further away from your humanity. The text flashes across the screen at an unnatural rhythm and sounds rumble and linger for far longer than they should. Add to this a layer of suggestively sexual imagery and you have the recipe for something… strangely beautiful.

Children of the Sun is thematically very strong. Some of the imagery goes a bit above my head, but there’s a cohesion to the creative choices that leaves the experience feeling very impactful. At the end of the demo I got to play, all of these choices culminated in a satisfying and appropriately strange way.

“Children of the Sun is deliberately ugly and grating in its aesthetic choices, as if every new kill pulls you further away from your humanity.”

The gameplay itself is a blend of the excitingly novel and the tried-and-true. I’m a big fan of the puzzle aspect of the game. Approaching a new level, moving around to different vantage points as you mark your enemies, plotting your plan of attack, and then pulling that trigger. There’s a certain amount of pixel hunting required as you scour the playfield for targets, but it’s all made worthwhile as you watch the bullet careen through skulls or detonate a car’s gas tank. The complexities of the puzzle-solving come from how you jump from one enemy to another with your bullet. Whilst there’s a certain amount of trajectory-altering you can do mid-shot, environmental objects can and will block your path from one target to the next. Plotting your path of destruction is much more important here than pinpoint accuracy or twitch reactions.

The gameplay evolves as weak points are introduced, as well as more complex stages with moving parts or tougher enemies to hit. It’s all very satisfying though. I’m admittedly not the biggest fan of the instanced level design and high score chasing that’s built into the game, though it’s a small detractor when compared to how many cool and unique things Children of the Sun achieves.

Children of the Sun is set to release in full to PC in 2024.