How much power can a candle really have?
As a title, this puzzle platformer from Teku Studio portends little in the way of ambition. Not a firestorm. Not an inferno. Not even a burning chip pan. It turns out there’s no smoke without fire where mediocrity is concerned. Candle: The Power of the Flame flickers with beauty, yet its punishing puzzle design is more likely to leave players burned than empowered.
Still, let’s focus on the positives. It is a beautiful game. Follow our protagonist Teku through hand drawn tribal villages, swamps and temples, it’s clear that a lot of love has gone into crafting a distinct and vibrant world. It’s just…look, I said I’d be positive, but the interactions with this world are simply not as attractive as the presentation would lead you to believe.
On his way to rescuing his village’s shaman from the evil Wakcha tribe, Teku has to solve all manner of puzzles that range from obtuse to infuriating. Predicated around the concept of fire, many challenges require Teku to light his candle and use the flame to effect an environmental change. It might be used to light a room, or to distract bees from their hive (I don’t know if that’s really a thing with bees).
Other puzzles require items to be collected and used in the appropriate place, very much in the vein of a traditional point-and-click adventure. If you can’t figure out where an object goes, just click on everything until you realise nothing works and you must have missed something important (both in the game and life in general).
The most testing moments come with the physical challenges that Teku must endure. As a platformer second and puzzler first, I wasn’t expecting to concern myself with action-based conundrums that involve jumping, hanging and running. Frankly, the mechanics of the game are so rudimentary and movement so stilted that it just doesn’t occur to try these things. It’s true that Abe’s Odyssey got away with similar failures in 1997, but…that was in 1997.
Perhaps it comes down to how much we’re used to failure as players of modern videogames. A few decades ago, before quick saves, transparent in-game tutorials and a breadcrumb approach to progress, it was pretty usual for a game to just kill you for no other reason than you didn’t read a guide first. Candle kills you all the time. When a game demands interminable experimentation and then punishes you for experimenting, it’s just not very 2018, is it?
But it is pretty. Pretty enough that I wanted to progress, despite the game putting up barriers to me doing so. Perhaps it’s a cop out to say it, but you might like this if you have the patience to tolerate anachronistic levels of player abuse. More likely the attraction will prematurely falter, leaving Candle to fade like sunrise embers before a brighter horizon.
Candle: The Power of the Flame was provided to us by Xbox/MergeGames for Xbox One. It was reviewed on an Xbox One S and X.