Trial By Fire
HIGH Exploring the bioluminescent garden.
LOW A few badly-placed checkpoints.
WTF The existential “bad” ending.
Some videogame developers make the strange decision to obscure their work’s beauty with ridiculous, over-the-top names — 7th Dragon III: Code VFD and Dungeon Travelers 2: The Royal Library & The Monster Seal come to mind. Others, such as Spotlightor Interactive’s Candleman, are much more to the point.
As the name suggests, Candleman has players controlling a little candlestick with legs. He begins his journey of self-discovery with an existential moment of peering into a mirror, wondering why he exists, and why he burns. When players take control shortly after, he’s in the bowels of a dark, dank ship, searching for a way out.
Players guide Candleman on a puzzle-platforming adventure in segmented stages split up into several chapters. Each chapter offers a unique locale from musty ship decks and dusty libraries, to vibrant gardens and glittering clock towers.
Candleman has his flame extinguished by default, but it can be lit by holding a button. Strategy kicks in as the game reveals he can only activate his flame for ten seconds total in each stage. Although the lengthiest levels take no more than about ten minutes to complete, parsing out ten seconds of path-guiding adds a welcome layer of complexity to this charming platformer.
The entire game isn’t shrouded in shadow, however. Spotlightor does a fantastic job of slowly folding in different contextual functions for Candleman’s flame and providing well-lit, gorgeous areas to explore. A mid-game highlight was a bioluminescent garden that features glowing plants that come to life and grow when Candleman lights his flame near them.
Despite how difficult it might sound, Candleman is actually a pretty casual experience. I found only a few areas frustrating, mostly due to timed platforming and some badly-placed checkpoints. However, if he burns his flame out before clearing an area or accidentally falls off a ledge, Candleman has ten lives and one mid-level checkpoint per stage to rely on. There’s challenge here, but this isn’t a harrowing, arduous journey. I appreciate that.
With its relatively short length, storybook-like progression and focus on a charming coming-of-age tale that offers surprising maturity, Candleman might be found sitting alongside Journey and The Unfinished Swan, although it’s lesser in scope. For Spotlightor’s first console outing, it’s remarkably sophisticated and tightly produced — I’m excited to see what they come up with next.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Spotlightor Interactive and published by E-Home Entertainment. It is currently available on Xbox One. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Xbox One. Approximately 3 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed one time. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated Everyone 10+. and contains fantasy violence. Candleman seems like an excellent game for kids to play or for parents to play with their kids. It features a few suspenseful moments where enemies chase the protagonist, but there’s no blood, gore or intense violence.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Candleman‘s sound is not necessary for progression. No sound cues or audio hints are present. Candleman should be a smooth experience for hard-of-hearing gamers.
Remappable Controls: Candleman uses only a joystick and two face buttons, and these controls are not remappable.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
He has a Bachelor’s in magazine journalism from the University of Missouri. He also has a personal blog (who doesn’t?) that he updates sporadically. He’s been writing for GameCritics.com since 2012 and has appeared on the podcast a handful of times.
If you want to dive deep, type his name into a Google Image search and you’ll most likely be treated to a scandalous picture of his Deus Ex tattoo. He also has a music background from 7 years on high school and college drumlines, and last but not least he’s dabbled in parkour. Don’t let those activities fool you about his ambition – he’s in his late 20s and still has no idea what he wants to do with his life.