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Candleman

Score: 93%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: E-Home Entertainment
Developer: Spotlightor Interactive
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Platformer (3D)/ Puzzle/ Themed

Graphics & Sound:

Chinese-based indie developer Spotlightor Interactive has released a fairly unique take on the platforming and puzzle-solving genres with their release of Candleman, a game in which you take control of an animated candle in search of a brighter flame. This premise is the key ingredient in gameplay, because the visuals and audio all follow the desolate path that the Candleman takes through the darkness of the levels before him.

While the majority of the game revolves around darkness, the developers did a great job of capturing the mood of the game with visual elements representative of each chapter of the game. Despite the looming darkness, the models and textures of the game have a perfect balance of reality mixed with fantasy. The lighting in the game is the most accomplished, which, of course, helps drive the game forward while putting players in a mood of isolation. Helping matters, the ambience of the game through music and sound effects is outstanding, even though it is pretty simplified. It should be said that while initially playing via TV speakers was okay and enjoyable, it wasnít until throwing some headphones on that it truly captured the moment and essence through audio cues.


Gameplay:

Desolation. That is the one word that describes the feeling and mood of Candleman. As a very lonely candle with legs, players quickly feel what the candle may be feeling. Itís an intriguing phenomenon to have empathy for what should be an inanimate object, but the visuals, audio, and narration help drive this isolated feeling perfectly. The entire tone of the game is underwhelming, but that is what drives this story more than anything. There is nothing flashy about Candleman in any way. It is a straight platformer with a few limited puzzle-solving elements, where the name of the game is to make it through the darkness and reach the next level.

Candleman is based around multiple levels within each Chapter. The Chapters are all theme-based, which is nice because it captures some variety and adds additional elements that need to be rationalized and overcome.

Starting in the bow of a dark, abandoned ship, the Candleman must use his limited ability to light his wick in an effort to navigate the darkness. There are often lit areas of each environment as well to help matters, but the overall tone of the game is a balance between lighting the way and risking melting away with the overuse of flames. Along the way are candles that can be lit with a quick spark from the Candleman, and those Candles help illuminate the immediate surrounding area. At some point in each level, there is also a checkpoint candle, where the Candleman restarts should his demise come before reaching the light at the end of each session.

There are a number of Chapters in the game, but I will leave the exact number a mystery because that, too, was part of the experience of the story. Through each Chapter, the Candleman does encounter new difficulties that need to be overcome by use of his flame. Sometimes the puzzles are light-driven, and other times they are shadow-driven, but rest assured that Candleman is all about physics, environment, and light-based gameplay. In fact, from start to finish, this game goes from light to darker than can ever be expected.


Difficulty:

Each level allows for up to 10 tries before the level must be completely restarted, so to say it is forgiving is an understatement. In fact, there were only a few levels where it was difficult to pass with the number of restarts allotted, albeit from difficulty, carelessness, or a combination of both. Many times, the unknown is where difficulty comes to light. At any moment, the ground beneath the Candlemanís feet may go missing, or the lack of vision may inspire the need to burn too hard, resulting in death.

The stand alone candles along the way do help light the path, as mentioned above, but they donít necessarily light the way. Also, each level has any number of candles to be found. Typically, most of them fall within reason on the mostly-linear paths to the end light, but a few of them are left lurking in the darkness. To truly complete each level to 100%, all of these candles must be found and lit. Doing so will reveal just a shade more information in the overall story, as each level will display an additional snippet of text when all candles are found. When the Candleman dies and restarts, providing he is not out of lives, the lit candles do remain lit, making it easier each time players work through a level after melting away. This was my only grievance with the balance in difficulty, as it felt a bit too easy at times.


Game Mechanics:

Candlemanís controls are as simple as a platformer can be. Navigation, jumping, and burning are the only controls in the entire game. The simplicity of the game controller makes it easy for anyone to pick up and play, but also it really adds to the isolation of the gameplay. Limited controls give the Candleman another layer of emotion as players traverse simple paths that add to the atmosphere of isolation.

The entire game is based on light. Whether the paths be lit by natural or artificial light, luminescence from creatures lurking in the darkness, or from the Candlemanís burning flame, the game revolves around working your way through the darkness and toward the end goal of becoming the most powerful burning candle around. Candlemanís desolate mood really does play a part in giving him an emotional value that may or may not light something within players throughout the game, but by the end may pull on heartstrings in an effort to give the Candleman just one more spark of energy in his solitude.


-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

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