Ten seconds of light to jump between platforms and maneuver through an environment partly hidden in darkness is all you’ll have in Candleman. It’s a concept that not only elevates what otherwise would have been another rudimentary platformer, but it makes Candleman one of those rare titles that is profoundly fun and inventive.
Chronicled by a female narrator, Candleman focuses on “The Limit of Ability” and takes on a storybook feel as it tells the adventure of a tiny nomadic candlestick with legs who is questioning his very existence, but after catching sight of a lighthouse, he becomes inspired, and sets out to become as bright as the shining beacon. While the plot isn’t deep, the journey to reach the top of the lighthouse is what makes you cheer on the little guy as he — and yourself — struggle to find your way through the darkness.
Spanning nine chapters and each comprised of four to six levels that take around 10 minutes each to complete, you’ll navigate a dimly-lit area, while occasionally self-igniting Candleman’s wick in order to catch a brief glimpse of your surroundings, melt off some wax to allow greater maneuverability and jumping ability and ignite optional candles for more light and checkpoints. As previously stated, the hook is that you only have a combined ten seconds of light, and once you’ve melted all your wax, you lose a life. Every death will take one of your ten lives, effectively lowering the amount of wax you have to utilize within each level. This is where the game’s uniqueness shines as the risk-reward of lighting the flame to navigate around obstacles in the dark, while also trying to not burn out and die adds an extra layer of tension.
Considering that gameplay is centered around illumination and there’s only one checkpoint within each level, moving through each new area brings about a unique variation of environmental puzzle. Whether it’s a forest of bio-illuminated flowers that bloom when there is light nearby or floating lily pads that can be steered by moving to the edge and briefly lighting the wick, each unique idea is used briefly before something new comes along, meaning each concept is never overused. In addition, the tone and mood of each level are only further enhanced by meticulous and detailed sound effects that can only be appreciated by wearing headphones.
If there’s one underlying issues it’s that this ambitious little title starts to flicker out near the end. The game takes a disappointing turn, one for which there is no apparent explanation and feels completely out of place in comparison to the levels before. Enemies are suddenly introduced and there’s a final confrontation that does little to provide a satisfying ending. I literally stared at the screen, confused by what I just participated in. Additionally, unless you are a completionist, there’s little reason to re-explore Candleman colorful world.
Yet regardless of an ending that left me a bit befuddled, Candleman is an enjoyable old-fashioned platformer that surprisingly manages to make you care about an inanimate object. It may very well be one the first, if not the finest, indie surprise of the year thus far.
A Xbox One copy of this game was provided to Gamer by Nature for the purpose of this review. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.
- Great presentation and attention to details
- Challenging and varied gameplay
- Unique risk-reward candle lighting mechanic
- Unsatisfying ending
- Lacks replay value