Candleman: The Complete Journey (PS4) Review

Back in February 2017, a small indie puzzle platformer from Chinese developer Spotlightor Interactive was released on the Xbox One. In January of 2018, the game was ported across to the PS4 but only in Asia, shortly followed by Steam worldwide and then mobile devices. Finally, as of today, the 21st August 2018, the rest of the world on PS4 can now experience one of the most adorable, yet challenging puzzle platformers I’ve played all year – Candleman: The Complete Journey.

The premise is simple, you play as a living candle who can only burn for a maximum of 10 seconds per level. If you allow yourself to burn for one fraction of a second more, our peculiar protagonist will simply burn out and cease to be. I can guarantee you that you won’t play any other puzzle platformer quite like Candleman and I’m so happy that everyone finally has a chance to easily obtain the game. So, let’s see if Candleman burns brightly or if it’s just a candle in the wind…

Candleman 1

You can’t say this game isn’t beautiful!

Alone in the darkenss, a little candle burns. He looks at himself curiously “Why do I burn? Why am I different?”

Candleman emits a feeling of sadness and loneliness, even if the story itself doesn’t always portray this. You’re a single Candle, a living being with a conscious and a self-igniting flame, surrounded by other inanimate candles in pitch darkness. You’re different, but why? What makes you special and why should you be the one who’s here, all alone, in this dark void of nothingness? However, our little waxy wanderer also has a curious mind and is instantly excited and intrigued by everything around him, once you escape the confinement of your initial dwellings. He’s always venturing off towards the bright lights of new environments and majestic mysterious plants.

As you progress through the game, you’ll encounter many new and unusual obstacles such as bottles, floating book pages, plants that are attracted to light, ghosts and many more. Some of the levels can even take you upwards of five minutes to complete – all whilst trying to utilise less than 10 seconds of light. I’m not going to lie to you, the game gets pretty hard as you get further through the twelve chapters, each of which are made up of multiple levels. With nothing but jump and burn to aid you, can you light all of the candles on each stage and help our poor little courageous Candleman reach the exit before it’s too late?

Candleman 2

Short bursts are all you need – these lilypads will come towards you with the smallest amount of light.

I’m a fire starter:
Candleman is such a delight to play on the PS4, the controls are solid and tight – if you die by falling to your death in the shadowy depths of the Levitating Library then it’s your fault and not the games. The controls are ala Super Marios Bros – Cross and Circle are your jump buttons and Square and Triangle will ignite your flame. You can also use the R2 trigger to light the flame if you wish, I use Circle to jump and R2 to spark up – it feels quite natural using those. 

I know what you’re thinking; “if you only have ten seconds of life within your body/flame, how are you meant to finish the level?!” I was thinking the same until I played the game – you’re a candle, that’s your ten second counter. Every time you light up, it will begin to melt your wax. So, you must apply a short burst of your flame as you make your way through the perilous platforms as you take a quick look via a burst of light, then venture out into the darkness based on your memory. As you progress through each level and find the inanimate candles scattered across the areas, lighting those will provide a little light to the area, even upon death (you have ten lives). 

As you make your way through the various chapters, you’ll begin to come across other things which will help with your Limited Illumination. Things such as flowers on the ground which react to light and proceed to light the way through the darkness with a single burst of light, giant lilypads which move about and glow in the dark with a short burst, and even plants which absorb the light energy you emit and continue to light the way for a few more seconds as you make your way through the unknown. Candleman (the game) is not only very clever, but it’s also very challenging and satisfying once you complete a level with all the candles collected.

Candleman 3

These flowers are great – once you light up, they will light the way for you.

Wick-ed environments:
Any good puzzle game has to be judged by its puzzle design, a puzzle platformer can be judged on its level design as the levels are technically the ‘puzzles’ of the game. Candleman is easily one of my favourite puzzle games this generation for quite a few reasons with one of the main ones being its overall level design and playability. Each level has been made with so much care, a level of quality you wouldn’t usually see coming from a small indie developer. 

As the levels get harder and more intense with the increase of obstacles and hazards, the designs get more elaborate and interesting. For example, at one point you jump on one of nine crates arranged in a square as they flow up a small canal. You must constantly move from crate to crate to bypass deadly flames and avoid being on a crate as it gets sucked into mini whirlpools within the dark waters. Again, using only a few short bursts, you must judge your jumping skills to allow you to avoid these disasters, all whilst being aware of how many seconds you have left and what dangers are coming up ahead! 

It’s absolutely brilliant and I can’t falter the level design in the slightest.

Candleman 4

Look, I have a new friend! Oh, wait a minute…

Story Dialogue:
Okay, so I’ve already given a brief overview of the story, so what’s this section for? The narration within the game itself of course! After every level, you’re given a two-line poem – which I thought was so original and inventive. Not only does it perfectly sum up what you’ve just done or are about to do, but it also rhymes! The twist here is that you only get the second line to the poem if you actually light all of the candles within the level – this gives you three reasons to seek out and light them all, 1. So you have the satisfaction of collecting them all, 2. In order to obtain the rest of the poem, 3. So you can unlock trophies later on. 

Each chapter also begins with a short cutscene which is voiced by a female voice actor known as Anna Forster – I can’t find out much about her but the quality and overall voice acting are great. I would have loved it if she also read out the poems after each level, or once you unlock them all for each chapter. I’m finding it really hard to falter anything within this game if I’m being brutally honest. Sure, the story isn’t deep or something you need to follow in order to know what you’re doing, but it adds an extra layer of charm to an already adorable, yet tricky game.

Candleman 5

Stunning!

Visuals:
This brings me onto the overall look and feel of the game. I imagine you know what I’m going to say but I have to say it anyway – the game is freaking gorgeous and so colourful and bold. Our cutesy Candleman is so darn adorable and likeable. Even though he’s simply a walking candle with a big brass butt, I love the way he waddles along as he runs and it always upsets me when he burns himself out sometimes. Other than our protagonist then, everything else also looks just as good with really good textures and great lighting effects – which is crucial in a game like this.

True, a lot of the time you’ll be spending in the dark and you won’t be able to actually take in and appreciate all the work the developers have put into the game – they could have drawn a load of memes on the floor for all we know! Yet, as soon as you tap the fire button, everything gets eliminated perfectly and I seriously couldn’t ask for more for this amazing indie game which everyone should own. 

Sound:
One of the things I always talk about when I’m discussing Candleman with my friends and family is the sounds and music the game delivers. The music is really subtle yet really sets the mood as you play through each level. The music isn’t the standout part of this section though – it’s the actual sound effects themselves. From the ‘tip-tap’ of your tiny brass feet as you scamper across the various floor materials, to the whooshing of the air as you ignite your flame for a fraction of a second. The game is literally oozing atmosphere as you enter the unknown.

Also, as I mentioned above, I really enjoy the narrator’s voice and feel she really adds a lot to the game – I just wished she would have read out the poems as well.

Candleman 6

Later mechanics change the game – here you can jump on shadows as long as you don’t light your flame!

Overall:
So, what’s my personal opinion of Candleman: The Complete Journey? I think it’s quite easy to see that I simply love this game to death! Not only is the music spot on, the atmospheric sounds create a sense of loneliness and sadness, the lighting effects are perfect, and the level design is great, but the whole game screams quality and perfection. Don’t forget that you also get both the game and the free DLC which was released on the Xbox One within this package, so you can experience the ‘complete journey’. These twelve chapters will last you at least 4-5 hours on your initial playthrough and possibly longer if you’re going for the platinum. 

I can’t find any faults with Candleman – it’s guaranteed to make any puzzle-platformer fan happy and put a smile on their face for sure.

The developer also has another game on the way called “Yet Another Exhausting Day” which revolves around you trying to stay awake by avoiding comfy pillows and hitting your head on flowerpots and photo frames! It’s a rather crazy game and one I’ll definitely be taking a look at shortly! For now, you can actually play the latest build on the developers Itch.io page here: https://spotlightor.itch.io/yet-another-exhausting-day

Official Trailer:

Final Conclusion:
Candleman: The Complete Journey is a beautiful game in both its visuals and its story it tells. The music may be subtle in most places but the amazing quality of the ambient sound effects more than makes up for it as it creates an atmosphere so thick you could cut it with a knife! The level design combined with the lighting, the contrast between light and dark, and all the various hazards, create a truly original and enchanting experience you won’t find anywhere else. Literally, no other game holds a candle to Candleman in the puzzle-platformer genre.

I’m incredibly happy that the rest of the world who own a PS4 finally gets the chance to play this hidden gem. If you love platform games, puzzle games, or even unique indie games – do yourself a favour and pick up Candleman: The Complete Journey today!

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A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

Candleman: The Complete Journey

£18.99
9.5

Final Score

9.5/10

The Good:

  • Simply gorgeous + amazing lighting effects (with a possibly PS4 Pro patch in the future)
  • Controls are solid - everything operates spectacularly
  • Great music, spot-on voice acting and superb ambient sound effects
  • Offers a decent challenge whilst also being tonnes of fun
  • The protagonist is so damn cute! I want a statue of him!

The Bad:

  • Playtime around 5-6 hours (could be seen as a negative I guess?)

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