Review – Candleman: The Complete Journey
If you’re a fan of platforming and puzzle solving games, look no further than Spotlightor Interactive’s 3D platformer, Candleman. Originally released exactly a year ago on the Xbox One, Candleman is now opening itself up to a wider fan base by being available on Steam. If you haven’t already heard of this independent title, do yourself a favor and check it out.
Candleman has a fairly simple premise; a candle becomes self-aware and sees a lighthouse in the distance. Immediately in awe of the brilliant light, the candle vows to journey there and become just as bright. From there you traverse through numerous landscapes ranging from a wrecked ship, to a colorful meadow, and finally reaching the far off lighthouse. Each chapter is set to its own unique backdrop, with its own set of challenges, with several parts in each chapter. In total there are 12 chapters and the average time to complete the game is around 5-6 hours.
This game offers a brand new element to genre I’ve never seen before. Most of the world you travel through is very dark or even pitch black at times. Being a candle, you have the ability to light your wick and illuminate the world around you. There is a catch however. You only have a total of 10 seconds of flame before you burn your wick all the way and perish. You do regenerate yourself in between each level, but with only 10 seconds of light at your disposal, you have to be pretty strategic about when you light it. I often found myself flashing my flame for an instant while trying to memorize where each of the traps and pitfalls were.
Throughout the game there are other candles you can find and light. This helps greatly in providing some mild lighting or reference points to areas of the maps. Some even serve as checkpoints and will be your best friends in some of the harder sections. If you find each candle in the level you get a little bit more of the story revealed and, of course, special achievements for finding them all.
The gameplay is very smooth throughout the game. You’re only able to move around, jump, and light yourself. The trick is trying to manipulate the environment around you so you can get where you need to go or uncover hidden candles. This game does a fantastic job of introducing new elements and obstacles to your ever-changing surroundings which keep the whole experience fresh and creative. At no point did the game feel boring or repetitive, despite the seemingly simple game mechanics.
The only thing that took me a while to get use to was the camera. In most 3D platformers you have moments of unbridled rage as you struggle to get through a particularly difficult part of a level, only to have the camera whip around in a totally unhelpful manner and cause you to either not be able to see where you’re going or move in the opposite direction of where you meant to (I’m looking at you Mario 64). Instead, Candleman has the camera fixed to exactly where it’s suppose to be looking at all times. In my hunt for all of the candles and natural inclination to fully exploring every crevice of an area, I kept getting frustrated when I couldn’t budge the camera at all. This was until I realized that the game had it all planned out and I wasn’t in danger of off camera enemies and nearly undiscoverable candles. Once I put my trust in the camera system it was smooth sailing.
My one small complaint with this game was that it felt a little unbalanced with its difficulty at times. Most of the game is very easy to complete, but then there are a couple of levels that are a bit frustrating with how tough they are to time everything perfectly while trying to evade enemies with limited light. Then it’s right back to a fun, yet not that challenging level. There is only one boss fight in the game, but it’s shocking how much harder the boss is than the whole rest of the game. There wasn’t a slow build up of increasing difficulty until you got to the boss. Instead it was a bunch of easy to moderate puzzles with a few rare tougher sections and then you’re hit with a crazy powerful boss fight. It didn’t even feel like the same game. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the challenge, but it just didn’t feel like it should have taken that large a leap in complexity.
The graphics in this game are wonderful. There’s hardly any difference between the quality in the cutscenes and the actual in-game play. There’s a slightly cartoonish feel to the candle and some of the enemies, but that adds to the charm of the game. It is about a candle with consciousness after all. The rest of the areas have very well designed and realistic appearances. The textures in the wood and pipes are rich and the way the water ripples and glistens is fluid and natural. From the dank flooded wreckage of the ship you start in, to the garish and vibrant gardens, to the bleak and austere lighthouse, this game offers a wide variety of adventures from start to finish.
The sound design is flawless. There is very little music in the game, mainly reserved for the cutscenes. The lack of a major musical score, however, greatly adds to the desolate and tense feel of the game. Every small detail of sound is perfectly captured. The clang of metal, the thunk of wood, the sloshing of water, and the whoosh of fire escaping a pipe; it’s all crystal clear. The sound of your metallic candle holder feet as they tap and clink along a variety of surfaces really drive the point home that it’s you on this journey alone.
Candleman is a beautiful game about dreams, determination, and perseverance. Its clever use of light and dark bring a genuinely enjoyable experience to the player. While it is a fairly easy game to beat, that doesn’t make it any less delightful. It takes you on a grand adventure that leaves you feeling fulfilled and satisfied. It’s artistic, beguiling, and one of the best 3D platformers I’ve ever played. I highly recommend going through this escapade yourself.
Reviewed on PC.
Candleman is now available on Steam and Xbox One.
A copy of Candleman was provided by the developer.