In yet another example of how old genres can still learn new tricks, I present Candleman (Xbox One), a puzzling platformer that has you, as the titular form of illumination, running and jumping his way through a complicated and dark world much like you have before and will undoubtedly do again.
After looking into a mirror and getting all existential, a male candle decides to take a walk. Except that instead of doing this somewhere safe, like on the beach under the moon light, he figures he’ll do it somewhere that has a lot of gaps and traps that will require him to perform perfectly timed jumps. Along the way, he comes across other candles who, while not sentient or philosophical, still need to get lit.
And no, he doesn’t sing like Lumiere from Beauty And The Beast.
In Candleman, your objective is as seemingly simple as the controls: Just get from one side of the room to the other using only your ability to move and jump. As you do, be sure to locate and light up any other candles you come across, especially those blue ones, since those are the mid-level checkpoints.
Of course, like a real candle, Candleman doesn’t burn forever; only for about ten seconds. Though he gets revitalized when you start or restart a level. So you have to light him sparingly. Spark him up too much, and not only will the world grow dimmer and less colorful, but he’ll eventually die.
Though, on the flipside, he also drips wax like a real candle, and since he’s made of white wax, you can, when revisiting an area after you’ve died, use the trails of dripped wax to get a sense of an area without using any more of your wick.
Candleman will also leap further if you hold down the jump button. And while it’s not by much, it still comes comes in handy since the environment is constantly shifting. In the early levels, which are made from wooden planks and boxes that are floating in water or attached to the ceiling by chains, the platforms you jump on have a tendency to swing back and forth. And some swing faster than others. You also, in these early levels, have to contend with barrels that roll left and right, as well as other obstacles that are hazardous to your health.
And, of course, many of these tenets change when Candleman starts running around on flowers or stacks of books instead of wooden planks. Though the basic premise is the same.
Not surprisingly, Candleman gets progressively trickier, more clever, and thus tougher as you progress. Doubly so if you insist on finding all of your waxy brethren. Besides new physical challenges, you’ll also run into some contraptions that will test your problem solving more than your reflexes.
Unfortunately, this is where Candleman started to lose me. Not because these puzzle parts were bad or too easy (or too hard, for that matter), but more because they just didn’t grab me the way the platforming did.
There are also some more universal issues with Candleman. Practical things.
As I mentioned, ever level has a blue candle that serves as mid-level checkpoint. If you die after lighting one on fire, you’ll start back there, as opposed to at the beginning of the level. Except that whether you go back to the beginning or the checkpoint candle, all the other candles you’ve lit — even ones after you reached the checkpoint — are still lit, and you have the same amount of wax you had when you first got to the checkpoint candle.
Of course, this lack of challenge is somewhat mitigated by having only a limited number of lives per level. Except that the limit is nine, and for some people, that’s not much of a limit. Which means you could, if you were a cheater, game the system.
But then, you could also cheat your way through Candleman by turning up the brightness and contrast on your TV, so…
Oh, also, as an avid reader, I cannot condone putting candles on top of books.
Despite these issues, though, Candleman is a charming and challenging platformer. Not one that you’ll play over and over, or beg for a sequel to, or even remember a year from now. Well, unless you watch Beauty And The Beast and one of Lumiere’s scenes make you think of it. But, for now, it’s a fun run for someone looking to revisit a familiar kind of game.