In the past month I’ve reviewed two games where a simple candle is the lead character. Well to be fair, in Wick, the candle was the main gaming device between you and a horrific death. While in this game, you are the actual candle, giving off wax, burning brightly, questioning the existential questions in life and running on a pair of tiny candle legs. You are…Candleman.
Candleman is a game that I’ve been looking forward to playing for a while now; it’s one of those rare games which sees just a tiny screenshot make me want to go “I would like to partake of your game”. But what is it? Well, in a nut it’s a good old-fashioned platformer, but with a neat original concept.
You play as a candle on a ship that’s questioning his lot in life and trying to work out what his role as a candle is. You then embark on a journey to leave the ship and get to a lighthouse, which the candle aspires to burn as bright as. For a candle sized being as you can imagine this is an epic journey that is full of danger, adventure and mishap.
The controls are very simple. You have a jump button, move button and burn button. With the jumping there isn’t any of your fancy double jumps or boost jumps, it is just a plain old jump. The levels are designed so that you just need to get from A to B in the safest possible route. The world you inhabit is in semi darkness and you will come across other candles that you can light using your burn button to illuminate the way and provide checkpoints for your progress. You can also light the way by burning brightly for a short burst, but you only have a number of these before your wick gets used too often and you die. There are other ways of keeping the light a bit longer like grabbing florescence plant life, but it is all about how you use the light and how sometimes you take a jumping chance in the darkness.
The levels and different worlds are varied in style and difficulty, and the developers really play well with perspective, shadows and design in the levels. There is a really hard, but rewarding stage where you have to work with your mirrored image to progress through the level. It really does at times feel like patting your head and rubbing your tummy simultaneously. On the negative side the pace of the game can be quite slow and it never really changes it’s rhythm, which might annoy certain people – for me though, it wasn’t really a massive problem.
There are nine chapters in Candleman and each one holds around four to six levels, so you’re looking at about 45 plus stages to complete. Each level can take around 10 minutes if you’re aiming for a straight walkthrough, but late on I guarantee you will be taking a lot longer. For the completionists amongst you – yes I can see you at the back – there is the extra challenge of lighting all the candles in each level, which can give you achievements aplenty. Playing Candleman is a joy from start to finish. Yes, there are the pacing issues, with the candle being slow and ponderous, and yes, there are frustrating areas towards the end where you will be pulling your hair out, but what platformer doesn’t have areas like this? The way the game takes you on a journey, before playing with the format is profoundly fun and inventive. It brought a smile to my face to see some of the environments and reminded me of so many games in my past like Donkey Kong and Spyro – those that gave me hours of platforming fun.
The visuals are lovely, but hardly groundbreaking. The character animations of the candles and enemies are cartoony and a bit tired, but the environments are where the soul of this game lies. The way they play with perspective and size from the viewpoint of this little candle works brilliantly. The change from the old clunky rusted boat to the colourful beauty of the marshlands is breathtaking. The use of colour is superb and the way the game utilises the light is stunning. The audio is used rather sparingly but it’s clunks, drips and subtle sound effects that are used to great effect to create the tone and mood of this game. When the score does arrive it’s majestic at the right moments and adds to the storytelling well. The voice over for the narrative after each chapter is good, but I feel something is missing from it, some extra edge. Maybe in the writing? I can’t pinpoint it, but something is missing.
Overall though, I enjoyed my time with the Candleman. It’s an old-fashioned platformer with some very neat tricks and a lot of highly enjoyable gameplay. It might be a bit too samey for some regarding pace and style, but the story is charming with a very downbeat ending, that nearly ruins your investment in the little candle guy. But in conclusion, please give this a go if you like your platformers, love candles and hate the dark. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.