Every now and then, a game comes along that, while unassuming, speaks in parables; they tell stories rich with a purpose thought common in their delivery, perhaps even more so than the storyteller intended. This is the way with Candleman for Nintendo Switch.
If you missed its 2018 release on Steam, Candleman is a platformer puzzler that puts a strong emphasis on atmosphere to tell its story. That atmosphere is dimly lit, whimsical at times, but haunting at others.
In Candleman, you play as a candle. Yes, you read that right – a candle with two adorably stump legs. Blessed with sentience, this little light sees a more brilliant one in the distance and wonders if its purpose might be like it – to burn with the ferocity with which it pierces the night. Through caverns deep, lush forests, perilous parapets, and more, you most guide this tiny Candleman to discover his purpose.
The story is broken up into chapters, each with multiple levels and associated rhymes to tell the tale. These rhymes are incomplete upon first introduction, until you complete each level, lighting the candles hidden within. If you choose to, it is your task to seek out these once forgotten candlesticks and restore them to their intended purpose.
Here is the catch: as a little candle, you have limited light… about ten seconds worth. There are also other perilous sources which would seek to shorten your wick. So beware: once you burn out, you are done. But, fear not, o light of mine; if you burn out or misadventure finds you, you have ten chances to complete a level with some of the candles serving as checkpoints for the level. In some settings, you are going to need this!
The environments of chapter are beautifully themed with subtle ambient themes to carry you through, setting an appropriate tone for each. Candleman plays lighting effects in a really intelligent way, using ocular occlusion in some spaces to help sell the depth of the darkness to using bioluminescence in settings that sense.
These low lighting tricks enable the hardware of the Switch to keep up with the gorgeous settings without chugging where many PC ports falter… for the most part. There are some moments where the hardware limitations of the Switch show, but these are largely in the more cinematic moments or when there is more light on screen.
If you are looking for a platformer puzzler, the setting, story, and controls of Candleman all work together in concert to create a really laid back, unique experience.
Now, I shared a pretty bold statement on the front end of this review about my perception of Candleman. You are welcome to come along this journey with me, but this is going to be a bit more personal than it is review.
Outside of GameSpace, I serve as a pastor of a small church. As a pastor, I would like to think of myself as a dealer of hope – someone who acknowledges the darkness, but, refusing to hide from or get lost within, illuminates it with the light of Jesus. This task can be a daunting one, especially when there are senseless and just plain evil acts that take place.
We can feel powerless to stand in contrast to the darkness… or we get distracted the brilliance of other lights, wishing that we could be like someone else. But you, you… you are fearfully and wonderfully made to stand against the darkness. It can be easy to forget who you are and that you were lovingly designed with purpose. Keep your eyes on the right light source and discover why your light burns.
Candleman is a platformer puzzler that puts a strong emphasis on atmosphere to sell its story. That atmosphere is whimsical at times and haunting at others. Walking through the darkness with limited light in search of a greater purpose, Candleman beautifully illustrates the point that some times the bravest thing of all is to hope. And with each step forward, though the darkness may come, it cannot hide the light.
COMPARE TO: Light Fall, Iris.Fall, Journey