What with COVID-19 leaving many of us still in lockdown or under quarantine, we find ourselves with a surprising amount of free time on our hands. You’ve read the collected works of Shakespeare, mastered still life painting, learnt to speak Japanese and are now a proficient flautist. What else could you possibly do? It seems that perhaps now more than ever is a great time to get gaming. If your game library is already looking a little worse for wear, and Minecraft really isn’t cutting it anymore (there are only so many times you can put sheep on a minecart roller coaster) then Teku, the Spanish indie game studio, has got your back. ‘Candle: The Power of The Flame’ is almost everything you need from a game when you really do have time, a lot of it, on your side. Initially a Kickstarter project, you may have seen ‘Candle: The Power of the Flame’ lurking on the Nintendo eStore, where it offered a lighter option to Limbo or Hollow Knight. Now thanks to an injection of cash and a team-up with Merge Games, its begun to make its way onto the Xbox.
‘Candle’ is an ingenious fusion of platform, puzzle and adventure. Although this does present some issues, the game itself is a refreshing and exciting twist, bound to keep you intrigued. You find yourself playing as Teku, a young member of a peaceful tribe living on their own floating island. As the game opens, you are partied to an almost cinematic, rich history lesson, where you discover the story behind the creation and subsequent recreation of the world by the gods. Peace and War have alternated throughout all four previous incarnations, and it looks like the fifth is about to become another failed divine experiment. Teku who after finding himself having been knocked out, awakes to find his peaceful island on fire and Yaqa, the tribe’s shaman, missing. As a promising student, Teku is sent to find his master. With his eternal candle as a hand, you find yourself exploring an ever-widening map with lush, detailed scenery, and constant puzzling keeping you on your toes.
Playing Candle gave me an instant, if not a niche sense of nostalgia. Having always been a fan of games such as Monument Valley and Machinarium, I would spend hours trying to get my mind around the puzzles and quests. If you’re not such a fan of point and click, do not despair. The people at Teku have taken the genre, and injected a platforming, adventure tone into it, making ‘Candle: The Power of the Flame’ into something undeniably unique. Climb, jump, and run back and forth the beautiful and slowly expanding map, and use your candle to illuminate the world. Hide from enemies while protecting your flame, or use sneak attacks to push them off the side of the ledges or set up elaborate traps to keep you safe as you venture forth.
Graphically, ‘Candle: The Power of the Flame’ is a delight, and looks more like a Ghibli or Disney animation rather than a video game. The whole game is hand-painted with ink and watercolour, frame by frame and then uploaded layer upon layer. This gives the game a beautiful fluid, dream-like quality, and a real depth to its design which makes it seem almost like an upgraded version of “Braid.” The detail in the design is impeccable, the colours are vivid, and the whole effect is unlike anything else in the game market right now. The musical score only amplifies this effect, a fusion of tribal tropes, ambient noises and guitar backing, in a way which manages to pay tribute to the studios Spanish heritage, whilst still perfectly suiting the game. One of the most distinctive elements of the game, however, is the narrator. With Teku and the Wakcha speaking their own pseudo-language, we are guided by a narrative voice throughout much of the game. This element makes ‘Candle’ almost as if it were an Attenborough documentary, adding intrigue, wit and intensity, a very much welcome addition to the game. His interjections often provide you with much-needed guidance when struggling with a puzzle, a much-needed crutch.
I cannot emphasise enough that this is a game which needs time. You cannot play ‘Candle’ in one sitting without becoming increasingly frustrated, no matter the help from the wonderful narrator. The game’s graphics, whilst visually stunning, are almost too detailed. The scenes become so lush and busy that you find yourself missing key puzzle moments. Added to the backtracking gameplay, you can often find yourself walking past a key element four or five times before you notice it. A perfect example of this was when I spent fifteen minutes trying to find a button which would allow me to progress through the map, when it was set in the mud almost right in front of me back at the start. However, when you do finally remedy a puzzle which has tested you for countless hours, there is no way to describe the euphoria! Another element of ‘Candle’ which may not suit the lesser patient gamer is the pace. ‘Candle’ is a slow, methodical game, and thus everything about it is slow. Teku can run, but only at a fraction of the pace more than his walk. There are moments where the movement can be sticky, which makes the platforming element of the game more tricky. This thankfully is remedied by a vast array of save and respawn points, so no matter how often you find yourself falling to your death, you never lose that much progress. These elements did not personally bother me too much, however, if you are prone to rage quit, or prefer a faster-paced, more action-based game, then ‘Candle’ is probably not the choice for you.
‘Candle: The Power of the Flame’ is not just a video game. Its a story, a history lesson, a brain game and an addictive, if not sometimes frustrating package of delight. The ideal game for those who need a break from their standard fare, or if you have time to kill, ‘Candle’ is gratifying and engaging throughout. Pared with a stunning design, delightful soundtracks and the witty narrative support, you find yourself forgiving the few mechanical hiccups you experience along the way, in favour of this whimsy and detailed world. If ‘Candle: The Power of the Flame’ is anything to go by, I cannot wait to see what else Teku Studios has to offer.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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Candle: The Power of the Flame Review
Gameplay - 8/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Replay Value - 8/10
‘Candle: The Power of the Flame’ is not just a video game. Its a story, a history lesson, a brain game and an addictive, if not sometimes frustrating package of delight.