When I take to a game, I tend to look at several aspects; visuals, story and gameplay, being chief among them. Though, special credit is duly given when a game truly stands out as unique across all of those fields. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what Candle: The Power of the Flame delivers. I wont go so far as to say that the game is perfect, but it does indeed go to great lengths to stand out in its own distinct way. It helps, of course, that the game doesn’t too heavily lean away from its core concept, making for a stunning, captivating trek.
The game is penned as an adventure game with challenging puzzles. Players take on the role of Teku, a young novice that’s sent on a journey to save his tribe’s shaman after being taken by the evil tribe of the Wakcha. What follows is a stunningly detailed journey across some of the most fantastical locations seen in games of this type. The art-style offers that of a watercolor-esque design choice, something that’s used very well throughout to relay beauty, splendor and the game’s distinct charm. Safe to say, this is eye candy from the get-go and is further upheld by its soothing soundtrack and its solid audio cues.
The aim of the game outside of following the story beat is to platform and puzzle your way through a handful of acts until you hit the end game. Oddly enough, it’s easy to see Candle: The Power of the Flame as a point-and-click adventure at first glance, but the game goes deeper than that. Candle (for the sake of the review from here on out) houses some pretty intricate brain twisters, but unlike many other puzzle games as of late, Candle allows you to go through these in your own time and at your own pace. That’s not to say that they don’t gate progress.
They do for the most part, but thanks to both Candle’s design and its very personality, you never feel like you’re at gunpoint to work something out. It also pays off to pay close attention to each environmental section as hidden clues, areas and items are often cleverly tucked away and can be necessary for completion. This is arguably the hardest aspect of the game, or for me it was at least, as I couldn’t always locate these elusive sections. It’s always made clear when you miss something, mind, but it can be jarring when you hit that brick wall from time to time throughout play.
This gives the game a metroidvania-like vibe and although it can be tedious to gel with at first due to the game’s lack of helpful direction, once you do gel with the fields of play, it becomes a much more fluid adventure. The core gameplay loop typically revolves around exploration, finding a puzzle, trying to solve said puzzle, before finally understanding that you need something else to see it through. That ultimately means that players will take Teku from area to area (and back again) to unlock new sections of the map once a specific item has been obtained or a map barrier knocked down, and so on and so forth.
The game’s controls are relatively simply to get to grips with, consisting of little more than movement and interaction, much like what you would expect to see from games that share a similar design. Movement can indeed feel slow to start out, but it does suit the mood and speed of the game in the long run. My only gripe is that it can feel overly stiff at times, and somewhat sluggish. It’s easy to forgive in the face of everything that the game gets right, but I would lying if I said it didn’t bug me on occasion. One thing I really appreciated about Candle was that despite its somewhat dark story-tone, the dialogue between Teku and everyone he interacts with, brings out a much lighter side, ironically.
In fact, I found myself grinning on several occasions at some of the writing within, it’s very well done. There are some additional quests to take on, but as with the core plot and natural route of the game, things are never as straightforward as you’re led to believe. That’s Candle’s strong-suit in my opinion, that it’s far more innovative in its approach than it seems to be. Teku sports the titular candle in one hand, and this very candle is what you’ll use to proceed through the story. Teku’s candle feeds into the gameplay through a range of interesting and useful ways; lighting objects, setting things on fire to produce colored smoke and even distracting enemies in one form or another.
There’s no shortage of ways that players can toy around with, which gives Candle’s puzzles that added depth. There’s also a push to keep the candle lit, with water a forefront enemy in the grand scheme of the game’s design. That said, I’ll also point out that failure can come thick and fast, with several ways to meet your demise dotted throughout. Thankfully, checkpoints are littered everywhere, so you’re never dropped too far from your last failed attempt should you meet your end. However, when all is said and done, I cant recommend Candle enough, especially for those that enjoy a decent puzzler that doesn’t prove too forgiving.
Candle: The Power of the Flame delivers a gorgeously detailed and thoroughly well executed puzzle adventure. From start to finish, the game does an excellent job at keeping the player engaged through its clever functionalities and environmental mechanics. There’s some issues with slow, sluggish movement, but in the face of everything that Candle gets right, this one problem is easy to overlook.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.