Candleman: The Complete Journey PC Review

Candleman: The Complete Journey is a more sedate experience which takes players through a beautiful, well-paced and relaxing journey.

By Woozie, Posted 30 Jan 2018

Candleman: The Complete Journey revolves around a little candle spurred into action by the question “Why am I burning?”. As a candle, the protagonist’s abilities are limited to moving, jumping and burning for just 10 seconds. The title’s levels don’t shy away from placing danger in his path, whether through streams of fire, spiky plants, foes eager for a chase, or even good old holes in the ground. Timing, a certain degree of precision alongside trial and error are all required to move forward. Portions of Candleman: The Complete Journey will be spent navigating through darkness with only a dull glow in the distance as guidance. Sometimes, the fixed camera removes even that bit of guidance.

With only 10 seconds of burning, the ability has to be used sparingly, as it is required for orientation, puzzle solving and setting candles found throughout levels alight. Often, I just briefly used the burning ability, to get an idea of where I must go and challenged the darkness relying on memory. What’s interesting is that the candle leaves wax on the ground it walks over while burning, which can show paths in the next attempt, should death come knocking. It’s safe to expect a couple of tumbles into endless pits. To offset potential frustration, the levels are fairly small and straightforward. The game allows for ten retries before resetting progress. In between retries, the lit candles persist.

Candleman: The Complete Journey, PC, Review, Screenshot

When they don’t play into the platforming aspect, other candles either mark checkpoints or optional objectives. Each level comes with a set amount of optional candles. A good number of them can be reached by simply following the path to the level’s end, or by very slight detours, while others might require a bit of snooping around what could be a corner obscured by the camera angle. There are a handful of levels that hide candles better, but given their small size, going back after having missed one isn’t a hassle. I’m not a completionist, but the accessibility of these optional objectives made me put some effort into getting as many as I could. Lighting all candles in a level provides a second verse to accompany the one prefacing each level. The verses, however, are pretty clumsily written, especially when compared to the writing from the in-game cutscenes.

Candleman: The Complete Journey’s visuals did strike me as utilitarian at first, even in sequences when fairly surreal settings were presented. It can be argued that even further into the game, individual assets do continue to look rather utilitarian. After a while, though, there’s a certain subtlety that becomes noticeable in how the game handles visuals. The second chapter already plays the surreal card as the candle traverses stacks of books decorated with small flowers emitting a dim blue glow. Later on, trekking across platforms made of worn pages is replaced by calling icy blue flowers towards you using your light. While there are moments when light overflows, painting an almost whimsical picture, Candleman: The Complete Journey is mostly a game of dim glows illuminating the darkness. And this is handled in such a way that it ends up carrying a strange, subtle sense of grounded beauty that’s oddly satisfying.

Candleman: The Complete Journey, PC, Review, Screenshot

As much as I enjoyed the relaxing trek, the casual nature of the puzzles, alongside the generous amounts of lives do render the 10 seconds of burning element a bit weak. Sure, I did stick to short bursts of light unless otherwise required. It, however, rarely felt like it truly was a defining limitation of the protagonist, as when he does burn out, nine extra tries are more than enough to get through levels, even when attempting to light the optional candles. On the other hand, the ways in which the character’s capability to burn and lack of physical ability are handled in relationship to the platforming are clear high points of the game. Pushing against a giant ship’s wheel to change its angle so that objects from within would block flames in the candle’s path, flowers bursting into bloom as the candle started burning near them bridging access to new areas, and carefully walking around harmful light sources while hoping to not fall through the floor are all things that stuck with me. It’s very much a case of a game not reinventing the wheel, but using the available platforming elements in interesting ways and, most importantly, varying them up extremely well so that they never overstay their welcome.

Candleman: The Complete Journey nails pacing down perfectly. Every chapter introduces some new element, adding gameplay variety to a title that’s playable with just one hand. Platforms that have candles on them react to weight and melt ice. There’s an entire chapter dedicated to using shadows for traversal. This variety is also present visually. Candleman: The Complete Journey is oddly grounded, for a game about a candle that manages to sprout legs, walk and (if the narrator is to be believed) have dreams and feelings. And yet, there’s something beautiful in the warm glow of a distant candle, or the striking cold blue of the lighthouse in the distance, piercing through darkness. There’s something beautiful to blue flowers being drawn towards the candle’s light, and the *cling* of its feet upon a platform’s surface is equally satisfying. It’s true that there were few moments when the title blew me out of the water outright. Instead, it introduced slight tinges of beauty in a very natural fashion, constantly building upon its underwhelming initial impression.

Candleman: The Complete Journey, PC, Review, Screenshot

There’s not a lot of memorable music in Candleman: The Complete Journey. There are portions of levels when all that’s to be heard is the sound tiny iron feet moving across surfaces. This turns out to be a rather hit-and-miss thing as, while in certain cases it does manage to emphasize the rather lonely nature of the candle’s struggle, in other situations it felt like something should have been there to fill the hole. Most of the candle’s supposed thoughts and feelings are relayed through the disembodied voice of a narrator.  The candle’s expressionless nature makes it difficult to be touched by its struggle until the later portions of the game. More about its motivations gets discovered at the end of each chapter, through short cutscenes that often get down to a third person view.  Overall, getting invested in the character is a bit tough. At the same time, the use of effective imagery in certain portions of the game, alongside writing that, while not consistent throughout, does handle the conclusion well, won me over as the game’s final moments unraveled.

Candleman: The Complete Journey isn’t aimed at people looking for challenge. While it does have a few tricks up its sleeve, it’s a casual platformer that does a lot with few means. Its biggest plus is that of introducing a different focus with each chapter without making it difficult to catch on to what must be done. This makes it so that even when it employs the use of tried and tested platforming elements, new chapters still feel fresh. Its levels are short, but there are some good 6-7 hours of gameplay in it (possibly more if you go for the completionist approach). It’s true that the protagonist’s most unique feature isn’t used to its full potential and warming up to the little candle is difficult until later in the game. Be that as it may, Candleman: The Complete Journey is a more sedate experience which takes players through a beautiful, well-paced and relaxing journey.

Bogdan Robert, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Spotlightor Interactive, Zodiac Interactive
Developer(s): Spotlightor Interactive
Genres: Platformer
Themes: Indie
Release Date: 2018-01-31

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