Unleash the Light

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Unleash the Light Game Poster Image
Tale based on TV show shares values of kindness, friendship.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Like the TV show upon which it's based, this game contains strong themes of kindness, family, and friendship that shine through in both dialogue and character actions.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Steven and the rest of the heroes encourage and complement each another. They fight, but only when attacked. Steven often expresses hope that the group's adversaries will give up and that everyone will eventually get along in peace.

Ease of Play

Tutorials lead players through each new game element as it's introduced, from combat to character growth. The touch controls are easy understand and master, and battle difficulty ramps up fairly slowly, though later battles can be quite challenging.

Violence

Turn-based battles are viewed from the side and at a raised angle. Characters use their fists and weapons including swords, whips, and shields to attack cartoonish fantasy enemies, such as drill machines, flappy bat spheres, and mallet-wielding robots. Enemies disappear once defeated. There's no blood or gore.

Sex
Language
Consumerism

This game is based on the TV show Steven Universe, and could prompt kids to seek out the source material.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know Unleash the Light is a downloadable turn-based role-playing game (RPG) for Apple Arcade based on the Steven Universe TV show. Players control a group of heroes -- including Steven -- as they explore dungeons and take on a pair of villainous prism-wielding Gems. The heroes are, as in the show, happy beacons of hope and kindness, offering encouragement and complements to each other amid comedic banter. Combat plays a key role, but tactical battles involving fists, swords, and magic are viewed from a distance and waged against colorful cartoon fantasy creatures that simply disappear once defeated. There's no blood, gore, or inappropriate content in the game.

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What's it about?

UNLEASH THE LIGHT wastes no time with backstory or explaining connections between characters but instead assumes the audience is diving in with a thorough knowledge of the Steven Universe TV show. Players take on the role of six of the show's heroes -- Steven, Garnet, Pearl, Amethyst, Lapis Lazuli, and Bismuth -- as they adventure in groups of four through small dungeons en route to showdowns with a pair of new Gem adversaries created by TV showrunner Rebecca Sugar specifically for the game. To move through dungeons, players simply swipe the screen to transition from room to room, tapping on any sparkling treasures they might find to pick them up. Some rooms contain simple puzzles -- such as shifting colored light towers to combine them into the proper hue -- that need to be solved to progress. If enemies are present, play automatically transitions to turn-based combat. Each member has his or her own collection of attacks and abilities that draw from a shared pool of star points. A healing ability might use a couple of stars, while a whip attack that can hit multiple foes in an attack zone cone may cost three. Once the star pool is depleted, play shifts to your opponents so that they can take a turn. As the story goes on, characters gradually level up, growing in strength, earning new abilities, and gaining special badges, costumes, charms, and upgrades that further enhance their prowess in battle.

Is it any good?

This one's for Steven Universe fans who love a good, classic turn-based role-playing game. Unleash the Light captures the show upon which it is based almost perfectly -- which is perhaps to be expected, given the assistance provided to the game's developers by the show's creator, Rebecca Sugar. The energetic cartoon aesthetic and familiar characters voiced by the original actors makes it almost feel as though we're playing a series of interactive episodes. More than that, it's true to the cartoon's heart. The heroes are kind and supportive to one another, and the writing provides some true laugh-out-loud moments. If you don't love them already, you're bound to begin caring about and rooting for all six of these pleasant protagonists over the course of the game.

Happily, exploration and combat are a match for the story. Navigating dungeons by sliding to move between rooms is fast and efficient, meaning you're unlikely to ever lose track of where you are. And the tactical battles are a blast. They start out on the easy side, but as the game goes on, players will need to master a timing mechanic that involves tapping the screen at precisely the right moment to defend against enemies or deal extra damage when attacking. Plus, as characters learn new abilities, choosing the right one (or the right badges, charms, and costumes prior to battle) at the right time and executing it properly can mean the difference between success and failure. Unleash the Light is that rare game based on a TV show or movie that not only captures the soul of the source material, but also manages to deliver some pretty entertaining action, to boot.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about screen time. If you were given half an hour of screen time, would you rather watch an episode of Steven Universe or play through a few dungeons of Unleash the Light? What type of screen time is more satisfying, interactive or non-interactive?

  • How do friendships come about? Is there a magical moment when you know that you've suddenly become friends with someone, or do friendships tend to evolve more slowly without you even realizing that someone has become your friend?

Game details

  • Platforms: Apple Arcade
  • Pricing structure: Paid
  • Available online? Available online
  • Developer: Cartoon Network Games
  • Release date: November 27, 2019
  • Genre: Role-Playing
  • ESRB rating: NR for No Descriptions
  • Last updated: December 20, 2019

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy

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