Developer: Spotlightor Interactive
Publisher: E- Home Entertainment
Release Date: February 1, 2017
Review Platform: Xbox One
In the cosmos of the video game universe, we as gamers and fans have grown accustomed to the modern Triple-A games that we are flooded with on a monthly basis. What started as a small struggling industry has transformed into one in which millions of dollars and teams of hundreds work on a single game, attempting to make it damn near a perfect entertainment experience – a fictional world that we not only get to enjoy, but interact with. With games that are built into interactive movies and have more bells and whistles then we can even uncover, every so often we are gifted a hidden gem; a small, simple indie game that might not have the funding or grandeur of a Triple-A, but delivers a remarkable and memorable game play experience all the same. Candleman is one such gem.
In Candleman, you assume the role of our titular little hero where after catching a glimpse of a lighthouse from the port hole of the ship he calls home, decides to venture out in an effort to find it and discover how he too can shine as bright as it does. In his adventures, you will take him through various areas each with their own darkness and dangers to endure on your mission to discover what it means to be a candle. It’s a simple story told through the use of lyrical prose, and it captures you and makes you root for this little candle right away. The game play is classic platforming at its finest – well detailed environments loaded with puzzles and jumps that boil down to skill and control, they way they should in the modern day platforming world. With dimly lit stages that require good jumps and careful footing, you’ll be very thankful that they gave you control of a candle to light the way – or so you thought. This is where Candleman adds its own distinct (pardon the pun) flame to the genre; that light that you so desperately crave in these stages…you only get TEN seconds of it.
Ten seconds of light is all you’re able to shine in this little candle’s journey and it adds a whole new level of difficulty and strategy to the game. For the first few stages it doesn’t present itself as too much of an issue, especially after lighting your first optional candle in the stage which not only serve as a collectible, but also as one of the few consistent forms of light through out the game. However, as you progress through the game, this limitation becomes a real focus as your light becomes needed to not only find your way around holes in the ground or difficult jumps, but also to activate things such as floating flowers that respond to your light as a form of locomotion or to create bridges out of invisible glass. It forces you to really think about where and when you burn, and until you get a feel for it you’ll find yourself burning that little candle down to nothing – which results in you losing one of the ten lives you’re given to complete each stage. It’s a really ingenious mechanic, and really makes this simple platformer a much more challenging experience.
Aside from its smooth game play and interesting concept, the other thing Candleman has going for it is its art and level design which are beautiful. Each chapter has its own distinct style and feel, all which in one way or another tie together what type of challenges you’ll face in those chapters. Through out my play through I found myself stopping to smell the roses a few times, most notably in Chapter 2 as you jump and run your way through a vast collection of stacked books – small beams of occasional light cut through the stacks and cast their shadows out a head of you as you run across a make-shift bridge made of pages. It’s really a sight and helps immerse yourself into these marvelously crafted stages. Now that’s not to say that they are perfect – sometimes jumps that appear to be able to be made are just out of reach but you don’t realize that until you plummet to your death or vines that you feel you should be able to use to give yourself a safer path just aren’t an option, but these misses are so few and far between that it in no way hinders the overall experience. The only set backs this indie wonder suffers from is a relatively short story which unfortunately has a bit of a dud and unsatisfying ending, and after you find all the candles in each stage (which can be done on the first play-through no problem) there really isn’t any other content to explore apart from taking the game on again.