Burning Bright

HIGH Simplistic, yet smart mechanics.

LOW Occasionally frustrating platforming.

WTF The lighthouse.

Candleman was covered by Corey Motley after its launch in 2017, and with rather high praise, and I’m taking a second look now that it’s been released on Switch as a ‘complete’ version including a set of DLC levels. This isn’t just standard ‘more levels’ stuff, though — it was only looking through the archives that I realized how drastically these additions changed its overall dynamic… But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Candleman is a puzzle-platformer where players control a living candle. Looking forlornly out a window, it sees a distant lighthouse burning bright against the darkness that enshrouds the world. The little candle decides to seek out the lighthouse to try and learn from it — it wants to shine as bright as the lighthouse does, and will risk everything to do just that.

Players move through each dimly-lit level and try to find the exit, but a hook of Candleman is that the candle can only burn for ten seconds before expiring. This aspect lends a bit of strategy while traversing each area, making sure they economically use the limited light available to see where it’s safe to move and jump. While there are some ambient lanterns and non-sentient candles to give some illumination, players will frequently have to burn their own wicks for just a moment or two in order to get their bearings and progress.

This simple mechanic also is utilized in some fascinating ways — in an abandoned ship, it’s mostly used to light the darkness, but in a later garden area, the light will make flowers bloom and create platforms to traverse. In another level, the candle’s limited flame is used to reveal hidden blocks that only show up when light hits them. Candleman also plays with shadow in cases where players may need to manipulate a shadow onto a block, or use them to hide from enemies.

While there’s only ten seconds of light per level, there was nothing that ever made me beat my head against a wall, and there was never a point where I didn’t enjoy myself. The few trouble spots for me were few and far between, and the charm and character of Candleman more than makes up for it.

Candleman (even with the extra levels added) is still a fairly short experience, but the length felt comfortable and it didn’t overstay its welcome. The storybook narrative style is perfect for the heartwarming tale that this game tells (no spoilers!) and it would be a great experience for a family to enjoy. Recommended!

Rating: 9 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Spotlightor Interactive and published by indienova (on Switch). It is currently available on Xbox One, Switch, PS4, and Steam. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately  3 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated Everyone 10+. and contains Fantasy Violence. I could imagine some younger kids being scared at some of the enemies that chase Candleman, but there’s nothing intense here.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Text in the game is presented in an easy-to-read font style featuring light text on black backgrounds. No sound is required to complete this game. It’s fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: The game offers no remappable controls.

Eugene Sax
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