You should always dream big. That’s especially true if you’re a little candle dreaming to become a great lighthouse and illuminate the darkness. I know, we’ve all been there.
That’s the simple premise you’ll find in Candleman: The Complete Journey. The game’s central gimmick is that Candleman himself (named only “the little candle” in cutscenes, but I’ll give him the benefit of being the titular character) is able to light his wick and use his flame to bypass obstacles. What’s the catch? Candleman’s wick only burns for 10 seconds per level. Attempt to burn any longer and it’s goodnight Mr. Candleman.
The limited ability to create light helps to form the game’s overarching challenge – platforming in the dark. It’s not as bad as it sounds, but you’ll have to choose when and where to quickly burn your wick to get a quick look at your surroundings. Thankfully, you’re not always in the dark, and there’s enough normal platforming to stop the dark areas from feeling oppressive.
Aside from being able to light his wick, there’s not much else that Candleman can do. The controls are brutally simple: the left stick moves Candleman, two buttons light his wick, the other two are for jumping. A simple control scheme for a simple premise. Candleman controls smoothly and there were no moments where I felt that an issue with the controls had caused me to falter. However, as a brief word of warning, don’t play this game with a keyboard and mouse. The original Candleman title was built for the Xbox One and Candleman: The Complete Journey is best played with a controller as a result.
Candleman: The Complete Journey consists of 13 chapters that break into a number of separate levels. If that seems to be a lot when you consider the simple premise and control scheme, then you’re not alone. I initially feared that the game’s central gimmick would rapidly outstay its welcome, with the tail end of the game being a slog through similar levels completing similar tasks.
I’ve never been happier to be wrong. Even though the crux of Candleman’s abilities revolves around a single idea, the execution of each level is what causes those abilities to really shine. Each chapter introduces its own theme, unique art style, and new obstacles. It then falls to the player to use Candleman’s limited pool of abilities to overcome these puzzles and move on.
Each beautifully constructed challenge introduces a brilliant new way to utilize Candleman’s flame. Examples include floors that only appear in candlelight, hostile creatures drawn to your flame and icy floors that melt away if you burn for too long. This chapter system isn’t perfect: the game gives you ten lives per chapter, and their inclusion seems odd. Lives should be left in the era of arcade machines and not pollute a gorgeous game about a tiny sentient candle. That said, I’m not a particularly good player and I didn’t reach a point where I needed to start over from dying too much, so the impact is limited.
While each chapter introduces new dangers, the end usually introduces a way for Candleman’s powers to defeat the dangers, turning the tables from hunted to hunter. It’s a great little detail, and it really enhances the feel of a journey as Candleman learns to use the dangers of his new world to his advantage.
It also helps that it’s an exceptionally good looking game, with an astonishing art style. I played on the maximum graphical settings using a downsampled 4K resolution, and it was one of the most graphically stunning titles I’ve had a chance to play in a long time. A lot of that isn’t just to do with the quality of the textures, it’s down to the high level of the art design. While each new chapter presents new challenges, it also presents a new art style, with no two areas looking the same.
The camera holds a fixed position, and the lack of a movable view can sometimes hinder precise platforming. Though it’s generally fine, there are points where you can’t fully see what to do. It’s possible my perspective was off, but it leads to missing jumps all the same. Still, those moments were few and far between. Candleman himself is a delight, and though there’s little “man” about his design, his actions and his animations explode with charm and cuteness. I’m just going to say it – Candleman’s one of the cutest game characters I’ve ever played. He’s adorable.
Candleman’s charm helps to propel the narrative and get you invested in the journey. Candleman is mute (he’s a candle – candles can’t speak, dummy), so all your information tends to come from the game’s narrator during the cutscenes at the start and end of each chapter. I don’t want to spoil too much, but Candleman: The Complete Journey is as charming and heartwarming a tale as you’re likely to come across in a game, and I don’t mind admitting I had maintained my manly façade by cutting some onions following the game’s heartfelt ending.
The audio design complements that heartwarming feeling perfectly, using the well-composed soundtrack to raise and lower the mood when needed. However, the soundtrack tends to cut in as and when needed, leaving you in silence for long periods of the game. Thankfully, the diegetic sound design is up to snuff, and the sound of Candleman’s tiny metal feet hitting glass, metal, wood, and other materials is amazingly well realized. These simple additions really give Candleman a sense of weight and add to the atmosphere tremendously.
I seldom came across any technical issues with the game and it flowed smoothly from start to finish. In one instance, I ignited my wick just as a cutscene kicked in. Since I couldn’t control Candleman, I couldn’t stop burning, so Candleman just… died. At the end of the level, during a cutscene. Woops. Following that scene, I didn’t have any similar issues, so it was seemingly an isolated incident. In terms of difficulty, the early levels should not cause most gamers any issue. There were some serious difficulty spikes on certain levels attributable to particular challenges, so the difficulty curve would tend to see-saw. However, the difficulty never reaches the level of a game like Super Meat Boy. Anyone who’s played a good few platformers should find a decent challenge here, but nothing to break any controllers over.
Candleman: The Complete Journey is an exceptionally fun platformer, and a great way to spend a few hours if you’re fond of short, narratively-driven games that make you feel emotions. If you pushed my head into the desk and made me name a similar game I’d say “Journey”, and “please stop doing that”. If you’ve played Journey or any similar game like Abzu and enjoyed it, then you’ll probably enjoy this. Minor issues aside, Candleman: The Complete Journey is a solid platformer that that makes you feel good via beautiful presentation and well-written dialogue.
A solid platformer clothed in a heartwarming story and topped with some brilliantly designed levels and challenges. The looks are the cherry on top of the cake - and there's always room for more candles.
- Great Visuals
- Beautiful Sound Design
- Charming Main Character
- Camera Can Be Fiddly
- Difficulty Spikes On Certain Levels
- Lives System