This visceral puzzle shooter has one of the best levels of 2024

In a year already filled with great games, Children of the sun stands out as something very special. The psychedelic puzzle shooter, developed by René Rother, plays like a spiritual mashup of Sniper elite And Super hot through Suda51’s anarchic noise rock sensibility, dropping players into the role of a vengeful masked killer on a one-woman warpath through a surreal version of the American South to assassinate the leader of an army of cultists.

The core concept of the game is relatively simple: you have exactly one bullet that you must use to take down every enemy per level. Fortunately, your character has a powerful telekinetic, allowing the player to ricochet the bullet between your targets mid-shot, like Yondu’s whistle-controlled arrow from Guardians of the universewhere you carve a path of death and destruction through each of the 26 levels as you hunt for your ultimate target.

The result is a chaotic, visceral experience that becomes increasingly challenging as new and more inventive techniques are introduced to your psychic arsenal. You can slow the speed of the bullet to bend the trajectory of your shots in real time or speed them up, allowing you to pierce heavily armored enemies at the expense of accuracy. You can target specific weak points on your enemies’ bodies to unlock the ability to redirect your bullet mid-shot. You can even shoot pigeons in the air to get a more favorable bird’s eye view of the battlefield.

You’ll have to rely on all of these maneuvers, as well as improvise a few others, to take out the cultists. While each level offers its own unique set of surprising challenges, Children of the sunThe 18th level of ‘Open Mic Night in Hell’ stands out as one of the most satisfying levels I’ve played in any game to date.

Image: René Rother/Devolver Digital

The level places the player on the edge of an office complex that has been taken over by the cult members. To complete your mission, you must figure out a way to take out every member on the upper exterior floors of the building, as well as a group of cult members staging an impromptu concert in the courtyard between two buildings. After I managed to take out the cultists in the courtyard, I was at a loss as to how to get back to the outside of the complex to wipe out my remaining targets.

I tried aiming the bullet at the building itself and then redirecting it to take out one of the outside guards. I tried to wipe out the cultists on the outside of the building before working my way in, along with several other approaches from different points of view; each attempt was more frustrating than effective.

After racking my brains, I finally came up with a solution. I would have to guide the bullet through an open hallway to the outside of the building, activate my ability to redirect my shot in the air, make a full 180 degree turn to align the bullet with one of the cultists, speeding up my chance to penetrate an armored cultist’s body before doing it all over again.

A woman wears a hoodie with the words 'No Peace' embroidered on the back and points a gun at a cluster of burning houses in a forest.

Image: René Rother/Devolver Digital

Encountering this technique was nothing short of a eureka moment, and ultimately became a regular trick in my personal arsenal of moves that got me out of trouble during the second half of the game’s challenges. Children of the sun is full of moments like this, but this one in particular felt like a breakthrough in the way I approached the game by forcing me to take stock of the powers at my disposal, as well as the layout of the terrain.

The beauty of Children of the sun is that this solution is completely optional. There are virtually dozens of different options the player can use to address the same problem. The only similarity, however, is that no matter which way you choose to accomplish your mission, the end result will be terribly sick.

Children of the sun was released on April 9 on Windows PC. The game was reviewed using a pre-release download code from Devolver Digital. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions on products purchased through affiliate links. You can find Additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy can be found here.