Screenshot by Destructoid.

Children of the Sun is a clever combination of cults, calibers, and chronoplay

Captivating and clever.

Most shooters aren’t a simple test of aim and split-second precision. You’re also trialed on your movement, eye for cover, and forward-thinking. It’s a common recipe for the genre, but the ones that stand out most don’t follow a by-the-book approach.

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Children of the Sun takes that formula and turns it on its head, and if were just any ole shooter, it wouldn’t have held my attention long. However, it manages to be so much more with its puzzle game wrapping paper, ensuring I can’t get enough just from my earliest of first impressions.

It’s violent and clever without ever taking itself too seriously. If you’re searching for a traditional FPS, this may not be the title to scratch the itch. For those of us seeking new experiences, whatever form they take, it’s potentially 2024’s most creative offering thus far.

Screenshot via Children of the Sun Reveal Trailer

Devolver keeps going

The name “Devolver” may not be unfamiliar to some, with the name attached to franchises like Serious Sam, Hotline Miami, and The Talos Principle. This time around, the publisher is working with the “up-and-coming lone developer René Rother.” From the preview, it’s clear we’re dealing with something unique, yet pointed in its vision. 

In Children of the Sun, you must take out a cult using your trusty sniper. Get in the right position by circumambulating the centre of action until you find the right position, or at least where you think it is. Once you’ve found the sweet spot, practice some discipline with that trigger finger because you’ve only got one bullet to eliminate all of your foes.

Once the first bullet fires, you’re meant to hit a target. Fail, and you have to start from the beginning. Succeed, and your job is far from done. You’ll still have control of the bullet, and, during a brief window, time slows down for an opportunity to find the next target using the same bullet.

Things get incredibly complex fast. Start at the wrong spot, and you won’t get the chance to hit the rest of the miscreants. Enter the wrong crevice, and you’re blocked from the rest of the targets. It’s a challenge where forethought is vital, and the pacing is slow.

Far be it for me to spoil you, but I will warn you that humans aren’t the only targets you’ll be encountering, either.

Children of the Sun.
Screenshot by Destructoid

A living world

It would have been fine for Children of the Sun to stick to simpler surroundings as a shooter already using such a compelling gimmick, but it’s all icing on the cake here. In many cases, it is the environment itself that leaves you stuck in a cul-de-sac or blocks you from foes in other ways.

Don’t shrink from the challenge, nor should you be afraid to die several times before finally cracking the puzzle. Instead, find ways to use the environment to your advantage. You’ll be surprised at how often this is possible. Children of the Sun isn’t without a dark sense of humor, either. Blasting cars and witnessing multiple cultists meet their demise is often over-the-top, but almost always hilarious. 

Not new, but not old either

While not formulaic, as mentioned, perhaps Children of the Sun‘s core concept isn’t entirely new, but it’s twisted enough. We’ve seen similar — but not identical — renditions in games like Superhot, and even the recent Tiger Blade functions not so differently. Nevertheless, Children of the Sun feels like its own unique spin in a way that’s enchantingly fresh.

It may be the dark, cult themes, static-filled soundtrack, the difficulty of remembering how to operate the sniper competently (is this intentional?), or the occasionally graphic kills, but Children of the Sun’s union of the puzzler and sniper demands our attention.

Score in Children of the Sun.
Screenshot by Destructoid

On the technical side, I was never left disappointed, and it dodged frame drops on the Steam Deck despite impressively tight gameplay. While the visuals won’t trick you into thinking you’re playing an Insomniac game, the art style is more than enough to carry it. Everything has a vibrantly grim, paper-craft-like approach, with characters and settings sporting a freshly drawn and unedited direction.

So far, Children of the Sun is one I’d recommend — or at least something I insist you watch. You’ll be spending far more time planning your shot than doing any blasting at all with the kind of gameplay forcing you to think ahead instead of running and gunning. You get points for goofy crotch shots, the aesthetics are amazing, and the puzzles are a satisfying challenge but not impossible. Sure, it may not be the absolute first of its kind, but it’s certainly a distinct one, aiming to be the best.

No release date has been set yet, outside a 2024 window, but you can find the PC demo on Steam here.


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Author
Smangaliso Simelane
Staff Writer - Smangaliso Simelane is a writer with a passion for all things related to video games. He has been writing about video games since 2020.