At long last, Spotlightor Interactive‘s hidden gem, Candleman, has finally surfaced on Nintendo’s hybrid system with help from publisher indienova. I actually reviewed the game last year when it launched on the PlayStation 4 (HERE) but I couldn’t turn down the chance to take another look at, I believe, one of the best indie 3D puzzle platformers this generation – which a lot of people don’t even know about.
Although confusingly dropping the subtitle of ‘The Complete Journey‘, Candleman on the Nintendo Switch DOES actually contain all three of the bonus chapters. I’ve completed the game to the credits and can 100% confirm that despite not mentioning them in the description either, they are certainly there.
I personally loved the game on my PS4 Pro last year, surely the Switch version has to have been compromised in order to deliver the same experience? Let’s find out…
Candleman is our titular protagonist, a lonely candle who seeks a purpose in these dark days. As the only living candle (with cute little stumpy candlestick legs), you set off into the darkness in order to seek out any other form of life or answers to your being. Unfortunately, our waxy wanderer has a rather unfortunate side-effect to his miraculous ability to think for himself, he only has ten seconds of wax upon his person. Should our little candle burn for even a fraction of a second over ten, his life shall be fully drained and his quest shall be over. So, short and reserved bursts of light are the key to your safe passage, that and lighting every other candle you see along the way.
Before too long, he spots a light in the distance, a light which has purpose, length, power, and strength. It’s the mighty light of the distant lighthouse. With a goal in mind, seek out and meet this elusive light source, our perky protagonist is full of hope and determination as he sets off on a rather dangerous quest through pitch-black caves, over troublesome rivers, and past gangs of spooky spirits. Keeping in mind that he can only burn for ten seconds before he literally burns out and dies, he’ll have to use the environment to his advantage if he wishes to succeed.
Although you only have ten seconds to live, it’s not as hard as it sounds, or as complicated. The controls are really simple, you can move with the control stick, jump with A or B and light your candle with X or Y. As long as you simply tap the light buttons fast, and don’t hold down your finger on them, ten seconds of light should last you a long time. As I mentioned above, as you progress through the game, you’ll be tasked with looking for inanimate candles scattered throughout the level. Lighting these will illuminate the area slightly so you don’t have to use your precious seconds.
At first, the levels are straight forward, make your way through the darkness, lighting up all the other candles, and then jump into the portal which moves you to the next area and gives you back your ten-second wick. However, things start to get more tricky when the game introduces brightly coloured plants that grow when you create a light, puffing out as they try to stab you to death, moving platforms you need to time your jumping onto in the dark, fire and water hazards, and other such obstacles which you can only briefly see when you tap the light buttons.
Although the game is technically a 3D platformer, I usually refer to it as a puzzle platformer as some of the levels really are quite tricky and difficult to navigate. If you wish to try and collect all of the candles within the level, which gives you the next line to a poem which is based on the chapter you’re working your way through, then you have to check every nook and cranny without falling off ledges, getting hit by things, being burnt, or going for a swim in the water! This is when it becomes borderline a puzzle game as it relies a lot on both trial and error and your ability to remember what you saw in the short period you created light.
One thing I thought when I saw the game was coming to the weakest console in the current generation was how much of the beautiful scenery and environmental effects would have to get toned down and dial back in order to maintain a decent performance level. I’m happy to say that playing the entire game in portable mode was just as incredible as when I first played it on my PS4 Pro on my 51″ TV (HERE). I couldn’t spot any compromises in terms of the environments, it’s a 1:1 copy of the version we’ve seen on other platforms – complete with fluorescent flowers, dust particles in the ambient lights, and even the dynamic shadows caused by light sources and fireworks. If you’ve never played the game before, the Switch is just as good as any other version currently out there.
In terms of the levels themselves, there’s a whole bunch of them spread across twelve chapters (including the DLC chapters). Each one introduces new objects and some new mechanics to work with so that you can make it to the next level. Some require you to push bottles which blow out a breeze you can use to reach higher ledges, there are lily pads which are attracted to your light and will move in the direction you illuminate, fireworks create a void which thrusts you into the air, and mirrors reflect floors which aren’t visible on your side of the world.
For a game set in darkness for the majority of the time, Candleman looks absolutely beautiful once you begin to light things up – especially the levels with the bright flowers which are very colourful and illuminating when you provide a little light. In a way, the game reminded me a little of Pode, yet another brilliant indie title which looks simply gorgeous with its use of light and colours around a dark and drab world. As you venture further into the game, the environments become more deadly and the hazards are more sneaky, hiding within the darkness. However, I never become stuck or unable to continue thanks to having ten continues per stage – I did leave a few of my inanimate candle buddies behind though as I didn’t fully explore every area due to there being no achievements or in-game rewards for doing so.
The story of a young, curious candle
I mentioned this within my review for the PS4 version of the game (HERE) but I really enjoyed the narration throughout the game, with no obvious lack of quality in the conversion like we’ve seen in various ported games over the last few years. The narrator is called Anna Forster and she does a great job of voicing the cutscenes, although just like before, the poems you’re rewarded with via completing the levels aren’t voiced. What are these poems I speak of?
Each level within the chapter presents you with a line from a poem which basically sums up what our protagonist’s journey is like within this particular chapter. If you collect/light all the candles within a level before you reach the exit portal, you get given the next line to the poem. If you complete the game without collecting all of the candles, you’ll only see incomplete poems on the chapter and level selection screens. Although there’s no trophies or in-game achievements to give you the motivation to light up every isolated candle you see along your journey, the small reward of unlocking the full narrative to the poems is one you should strive to work towards.
Although the narrative is quite simple and the story is easy to keep up with, you can’t help but feel sorry for little Candleman, as you read between the lines at how he’s feeling – he’s far too sweet and cute for his own good! I’ve never personally played the original non-DLC supplied version of the game, so I don’t know if the ending was altered once those packs originally became available – if not, the original ending was quite dark and upsetting. Maybe this is why the DLC was originally released, to provide a much more satisfying and emotional finale to this amazing adventure?
Visually, Candleman on the Switch looks just as good as I remember it being over on my PS4 Pro (HERE). Sure, the resolution will no doubt be lower when playing in either portable or docked mode (as I think the Pro got a 4k resolution patch) and I believe the Pro and X are 60fps and this is 30fps, but unless you’re comparing the versions side by side, I doubt you’d even care. The game looks just as beautiful, dark, lonely, haunting and, magical as it does on every other platform, with little to no visual compromises.
In regards to performance, I initially thought the game was suffering from slowdown as Candleman was jumping rather slow and moving around at a slower speed than I recalled. However, upon loading up the game on my PS4, there’s little to no difference as it’s the way the game was initially created in order to help with timing jumps and avoiding falling into the darkness. However, the game did feel like there was some real slowdown when the screen was fully illuminated via fluorescent plants, ambient lighting or fire tubes. This hit never lasted long, but it did feel a little bit slower during those moments.
In terms of the overall effects and aesthetics though, Candleman really is an underappreciated hidden gem. The dust in the lights, the dripping wax which stays on the floor to guide you, the detailed environments despite you being unable to see them half the time, and the dynamic shadows caused by every object and item, all come together to fully immerse you within this world.
Soundwise, I can’t fault one single piece of the sound design. The music is very subtle or completely absent – depending on which level you’re on – with the main source of sound coming from all of the ambient noises and sound effects. There’s something creepy and harrowing about walking around in the pitch darkness with only the sounds of your little metallic feet tapping on the wood, metal, paper or vegetation below. It serves as a guide, so you know what you’re standing on in the darkness, and also as a way to make you feel even more isolated and alone with only the simple sounds echoing from all around. Not to mention the hypnotic sounds of the whistling bottles, the flaming pipes, the ripples of water as the lily pads float along, and the water as it falls from above.
This, plus the voice acting, are simply superb and something which should be celebrated and admired by all.
If you’ve yet to experience Candleman on any platform so far, the Switch version is just as good as any other out there. The game is a brilliant indie puzzle platformer which utilises its ‘ten seconds of burn time’ mechanic perfectly, forcing you to be more reserved and cautious than you would be in a standard 3D platformer. As you progress closer to the goal, the mighty Lighthouse, the world becomes much more colourful, spooky, hostile, and daunting. The adventure our little protagonist embarks on is one which everyone should tag along on.
Despite being set in almost pitch darkness, Candleman, as a game and the titular protagonist, is sure to light up your heart and fill you with hope, determination and joy. No matter where you opt to play the game (PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, iOS, Android…), I guarantee you’ll love every second of it.
- - No compromises in comparrison to other versions such as the PS4 edition I played last year
- - The 'ten-second' mechanic works really well, offering a hint of strategy and caution into how you play
- - The music, voice acting and sound effects are superb and perfectly implemented
- - Includes all of the bonus DLC chapters we saw in other versions, despite not mentioning this in the description or title
- - I still want a statue of the young fella!
- - Gameplay is a little slow (in terms of jumping and moving), but it does help with jumping and positioning
- - No in-game achievements on the Switch edition, meaning there's little motivation to replay once you've got all the candles and completed all of the levels