Candleman Review

By Cindy Minguez, 2 years ago
Candleman, a new platformer from Spotlightor Interactive and E-Home Entertainment, has made its debut on the Xbox One via the ID@Xbox program. The title sees a little candle making his way through a dark world as he struggles to reach the great light of the lighthouse in the distance. As he makes his way through ever more dangerous environments, it's up to you to help him reach his goal before his flame burns out.

Headed to the light.Headed to the light.

The title has a storybook feel, almost like reading a child's story or a fairy tale. As the game begins, a little candle ponders the reason for his existence. He decides to carry his small flame out into the world, bringing light to the darkness. Players will find themselves cheering on the little guy as he struggles through the dark, beginning in the bowels of a deserted ship. The gameplay is very simple and straightforward; you move cn_LS, jump cn_A, and burn cn_RT. However, that's where the simplicity ends in this clever platformer. You have only two goals in each area: light all the candles and move on to the next place, but it isn't always so easy.

You begin each stage with ten lives, which can be lost in any number of ways: falls, fire, spikes, drowning, or running out of wax. It's imperative that one finds a balance between burning one's light and not running out of wax. Your light can burn for ten seconds total per life and the little candle loses himself, literally, as his fire burns, melting his wax body away. As you move through an area, trails of wax follow you. These are very helpful if you must begin again (you don't lose all of your progress unless you use up all ten lives) because the wax is easy to see in the dark, allowing to you save light as you proceed. Occasionally, you can even use lost wax to your advantage by sacrificing one life to create a little heap of wax, giving you enough height to make it to that just-out-of-reach candle. Each area also has at least one checkpoint so that it isn't necessary to always start back at the beginning.

Manipulate helms to change angles.Manipulate helms to change angles.

Three worlds wait to be explored in a total of nine chapters, each broken into smaller sub-chapters. You will explore the ship, the outside, and the lighthouse, each world more difficult than the last. In the ship, you must navigate across swinging crates and rolling barrels, moving planks to reach your destination. Chains will sometimes stand in your way that must be moved. You must dodge pipes spitting fire and travel across expanses on air currents reminiscent of the floating mechanic in American McGee's Alice.

The outside world leads you again through darkness, this time punctuated with brightly colored plants that respond to your light. Some will expand and explode, knocking obstacles out of your way as they fall, while others will bloom, their petals forming bridges for you to cross. In the final world, the lighthouse, you must use your flame to manipulate the shadows that can act as a help or a hindrance. You will also run into enemies for the first time here; ghost candles must be kept at bay with your light as you forge ahead. They can make getting across certain places quite tricky as you try to lead them in such a way that you can then get around them.

Ghost candles must be kept at bay.Ghost candles must be kept at bay.

One big downer in the game is the ending. The little candle's journey is a hopeful, inspiring one, burning as hard as he can to bring light to a dark world. He's small, but he has a big heart. In the last area, the story takes a disappointing turn, one for which there is no apparent explanation, and the lack of meaning makes it seem senseless. It's as if the developer was going for shock value; in this case, I would have preferred dull predictability. Ultimately, the end of our fairy tale would make the Grimm brothers proud, which contradicts the game's entire vibe up until that point.

The graphics are beautifully done throughout, with great attention to detail and texture. Sound blends seamlessly into its surroundings, too — rusted chains clank as they swing; shallow water gently laps. The one real downside in the game is the darkness itself. Considering that it's a basic mechanic of the gameplay, it isn't really fair to list this as a negative, but anyone with vision issues, such as difficulty with dark screens or depth-perception problems, will find this game more challenging than it was meant to be. There is no option offered to brighten screens as is seen in many titles.

Light brings the plants to life.Light brings the plants to life.

Finally, the game offers ten achievements to be had. Eight of the ten are for finishing chapters and lighting candles. These are very straightforward and not difficult to get as you can return to previous chapters to pick up candles you may have missed. The other two require that you run out of wax and fail five times, both very easy to do. While not hard to accomplish, the achievements are very unimaginative; a little more variety and perhaps a few more achievements along the way might have added to the experience.

Summary

Candleman is a great platformer with beautifully rendered graphics and wonderful attention to detail. You will find yourself cheering on the little candle as you help him navigate the many obstacles in his way as he tries to reach the magnificent beacon shining from the lighthouse. The gameplay is simple yet challenging, nicely varied, and requires a studied balance of using light, shadow, and movement. Players with vision issues, especially that relate to brightness and depth, may find the game quite difficult with no option to change the lighting, but it's still a fun experience despite the challenge. Unfortunately, the developers make the lovely story end in such a way that's less than bright.
4 / 5
Candleman
Positives
  • Great graphics
  • Attention to detail
  • Fun and varied gameplay
Negatives
  • Disappointing ending
  • Difficult for anyone with vision issues
  • Could use more varied achievements
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent about six hours making her way through the dark and gained all of the game's 10 achievements. An Xbox One download code for this game was provided through the ID@Xbox program for the purpose of this review.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
Cindy Minguez
Written by Cindy Minguez
Cindy has been writing for TA/TT for three years now and is the Assistant Manager of the Newshounds at TrueTrophies. She's an English instructor at a small college and considered a remarkably cool teacher for knowing all about Mass Effect, Skyrim, and Diablo III.