Candleman Is an Introspective Journey That Will Warm Your Heart
Candleman: The Complete Journey arrived on PC on Jan. 31, after launching on Xbox One last year. This unique platformer gives players 10 seconds of candlelight to help them see every level, and that is where the challenge lies. Developed by Spotlightor Interactive, Candleman puts players in a dark world that manages to calm and unnerve at the same time.
While the platforming can feel laborious at times, the true strength of this game is the touching story that makes you reflect much more than you'd expect in a video game about a candle. Let's take a quick look at some of the highlights of the game.
Candleman: The Complete Journey follows the story of a sentient candle with two dinky little legs and no face (it manages to somehow be both creepy and charming). This little candle wakes up on a boat and sees a lighthouse in the distance, which he aspires to become. The chapters of gameplay divide the story well, with different themes ranging from crushing bleakness and fear to hopeful optimism. There is an ongoing poem that accompanies each level which helps amplify the emotions surrounding the candle's journey. If not for the DLC chapters (10-12), the story would be disappointing, but those new chapters offer a new perspective that makes the story shine. Ultimately, players and the candle will come to find out how great of an impact they can make on the world without realizing it, and the importance of the journey they take rather than their destination.
Many games are praised for things like their lighting, shadows, and art style. Candleman's experience depends on it. What Candleman does extraordinarily well lies within how it takes advantage of light and darkness. The darkness is often your most frustrating obstacle, while there is just enough light to help you through each level. The camera is fixed in a way that diversifies the challenges players encounter within a level. The levels themselves look pretty good most of the time, although the background is sometimes lacking. Each chapter has a unique aesthetic, which definitely helps you continue playing the game; if each level looked the same, this would be a much different review. The sound of the game is simple, but it does its job well. The metal clink of the candle's footsteps is comforting as players traverse darkness. The boss level (yes, there is a boss level -- I didn't expect one either!) does a tremendous job using both sound and bright lights to create genuine anxiety. While not being able to skip cut-scenes may annoy some gamers, the overall artistic choices made by the developers positively contribute to the game experience.
Candleman features a tremendous little mechanic. Players can only keep their candle lit for 10 seconds before they burn out. This leads to tough decisions on when to use that light and makes simple platforming twice as difficult. Players can't get mad at the game for dying; they can only blame themselves, either for being too impatient, misjudging a jump, or poorly utilizing their candlelight.The controls in Candleman are simple (I recommend using a controller). You move, you jump, and you light/extinguish your flame. That's it. At times, these controls felt lacking, but the developers did a fine job coming up with new ways to utilize light and the fire of your candle to make every chapter feel unique. The candle even drips wax when he burns, which is a helpful little tool to help you keep track of where you've been and where a ledge might drop off. These little wax spots help you preserve your light upon respawning because now you know where you can safely go.
Some levels feel absurdly easy, while others will challenge you over and over again. Often it felt like the only challenge the levels provided was seeking out all the hidden, optional candles that contribute to a 100% completion for every level. I do recommend seeking these candles out, as there aren't too many to find, and getting all of them adds bonus lines to the poems for each level that add more depth to the experience. Personally, the severe changes in difficulty helped keep the game fresh and rewarding, but it's likely that some people would find these inconsistencies annoying. The game often felt slow, and it punishes players trying to rush through a level, which can become really frustrating after dying several times in a row. While the mechanics of the candle are fun to experience, the gameplay isn't compelling enough to justify continuing through the game if you're not invested in the story of the candle.
My Final Take
For $14.99, Candleman: The Complete Journey is a fair value and an impressive accomplishment from a small team. If you like platformers and want a unique challenge, or if you're looking for a nice six-hour story about facing the world, then you can get Candleman on Steam. Otherwise, don't feel too bad if you want to give this game a pass or want to wait for it to go on sale.
Did you play Candleman, and if so, what did you think? Let us know in the comments below! Be sure to stick around GameSkinny for more game reviews, guides, and news!
Note: A review copy of this game was provided.