Without a doubt, Candleman from the Beijing-based developer, Spotlightor Interactive, is one of the most pleasant surprises. Never did I imagine, that I would be playing as a literal candle with two little legs, questioning his own existence in front of a musty, shattered mirror. Why is he alone on this seemingly abandoned ship? Is he the only sentient candle? What is his purpose for existing? All of these questions are implied only moments into the game, but when he spots the glowing blue light from the lighthouse, he is determined to reach the brightest light he has ever seen.
The dimly lit and dirty environments are downright gorgeous with considerable attention to how the game manipulates and uses light sources. The game’s mechanics are quite simple, but highlight that a game with a strong core doesn’t need elaborate controls schemes to be enjoyable. Other than walking, your “little candle that could” is capable of jumping and igniting his own wick. When lit, the light reflects off of all surfaces, making your journey an easier one, but there is a catch; you can only burn your candle for 10 seconds per life. You are given a specific number of lives to burn through (pun intended) per stage, but if you aren’t careful, you can find your total dwindling with the sheer amount of holes, spikes, and ghostly enemies that you’ll come across. When your candle is burning, you’ll leave a trail of wax, making it easier to navigate in the dark as the wax stays on the ground, marking safe passages if you need to backtrack.
Each of the game’s thematic worlds/chapters are divided by a set number of stages, with each one having a number of optional candles for you to light during your adventure. The levels can be quickly restarted upon completion if you missed any of the often well-hidden candles. All of the previously found candles remain lit, making it easier to find any missing ones. As you progress through the worlds, the environments become more difficult and elaborate to traverse. You can fully expect to jump across swinging wooden planks, make use of gusts of air, and even use verticality to reach your goal. Some areas allow you to manipulate objects using your light to extend passways or to clear blocked paths.
Most of the game’s chapters are thematic in nature, meaning you’ll come across new mechanics as your progress through the narrative. Candleman showcases an overly brilliant use of contrast lighting, using shadows to shroud hidden passageways. Even more impressive is how the dynamic use of light plays into each environment, genuinely illuminating a storybook come to life. While our out of the ordinary protagonist remains silent, the game does feature an omniscient narrator that emotionally conveys the sensations and feelings throughout.
The journey towards the light is something everyone can relate to, and the game is framed like an enjoyable fairy tale come to life. The visuals are gorgeous, and the controls are easily accessible. Without spoiling anything, the game didn’t end how I expected, failing to bring a satisfying closure to the game’s narrative. Movement speed is a tad slow, and the jump is a bit floaty, so that could be a deal breaker to some. Candleman is only available on Xbox One and PC in North America, but can be found on the Chinese PS Store.Note: Candleman was reviewed on PC. A digital copy of the game provided by the publisher.