By Ferry "Sadhonker" Adams on November 17, 2016
Legend tells us that the gods created and destroyed the world four times... No kidding, that's what they tell us. I'm not sure about their work ethics, but I do think they should have done a proper job the first time around and have saved themselves a lot of additional work! I mean, if you can't even trust the gods to get things right, who can you trust?!
But seriously though, this is the first thing you will hear when playing a brand new 2D adventure / platform game, developed by Teku Studios and published by Daedalic Entertainment, that goes by the name of Candle. Before I do anything else, I feel I must really conrgatulate the art department at Teku Studios, because they did an excellent job! The first thing I noticed was the extremely gorgeous environments, that have been depicted as kind of watercolor / pencil paintings. Every single screen you walk into is an absolute work of art. Is this something I think is important? You bet your ass it is! Especially taking into account that, in order to solve the numerous puzzles that you will encounter throughout the story of Candle, every little detail can be a clue. So yes, being able to look at something that is this beautiful, is pretty important to me!
In Candle, you take the role of Teku, a young but brave boy that sets out on a quest to save the Shaman of his village. You see, Teku's once peaceful village has been attacked by a tribe of Wakcha warriors and their Shaman has been taken hostage to serve as an offering to the gods. Young Teku must make his way through perilous environments and deal with scores of enemies in order to save the Shaman and set things right. Luckily, Teku is not just a normal boy; he is a Fire-keeper, which means that his left hand is essentially a candle with which he can fend off some of the dangerous animals that roam the planet and light his way when things go dark.
Although Teku cannot actually fight, he can make clever use of some of the contraptions and items in the environment to overcome the many dangers that lie on his path. And trust me when I say that this path is almost literally covered in dangers of all kind; bottomless pits, dangerous creatures, toxic swamps, giant rolling boulders and yes, Bloodthirsty Wakcha warriors. To overcome these dangers, Teku will have to use the things he finds in the environment, his wits and the power of his candle. There are puzzles that only rquire you to find a certain object in order to solve them, while others will force you to look more closely at your surroundings and read the many visual clues the developers have intricately worked into said surroundings.
The entire story is told by an unseen narrator as we make our way towards our goal. Teku is a silent protagonist, while other characters in the game communicate with Teku through the use of a strange language. Because it is improbable that any of us know this language, the conversations are also depicted by drawings and animations inside speech bubbles that appear between two characters whenever they engage in conversation. After key points in the conversation, the narrator steps in again and clarifies what has just been said. It's a very cool style of presenting conversations and I like it a lot! Most of the time, one can pretty much guess what it is the character wants Teku to get or do but, just in case you've missed something, it is then repeated in plain english. This makes sure you never get stuck because you're not sure what a certain character wants.
While on the subject of sound, I would like to point out that I think the soundtrack of the game is nothing less than brilliant! It has a very upbeat feeling to it, while turning ominous when danger is ahead. And, most importantly, you can play the game for hours and the music and strange language of the characters will not get on your nerves. The music composed for Candle, fits the game's visual style perfectly and really complements the whole experience.
So, on to the puzzles! Teku's world is chock-full of them, ranging from, as I've said earlier, simple 'use-this-item-here' style puzzles to the more difficult variety where the key is to closely observe the environments you walk through and use the details in these environments details as visual clues. For instance: a drawing on a rock, which you believed was only background art, may well be a clue as how to make your way through a particularly dangerous area.
Also, the game relies heavily on symbols to indicate that there might be something important going on here. I remember being somewhat stuck on a certain puzzle, featuring a contraption with a large symbol painted on it. I was kind of at a loss, but then I remembered that I had seen that exact same symbol before. I made my way back to where I remembered seeing the symbol in question and presto; after a quick inspection of my surroundings, I now knew what to do! Another important thing to remember when playing Candle, is to listen to what the narrator has to say. Trust me, he's not only there to tell a story, he can also provide clues as to what you should be paying attention to in the environment.
I really like the fact that the developers managed to incorporate the candle on Teku's left hand into the puzzles. To solve some of the problems, you will have to make use of the fire you are carrying with you, but there's a catch! When you fall into a pond, the fire gets extinguished. To sneak past sleeping Wakcha warriors, you will have to extiguish your candle, because they can somehow sense the candle if you get too close and will start to chase you. But, if your candle somehow gets extinguished, the last thing you want to do is to have to trek all the way back to the beginning and relight it.
This is exactly why there are unlit torches or ritual statues scattered across the different sections of the game. Whenever you come across such a torch or statue, you can use your candel to set them on fire, after which they will keep burning. So, if you manage to douse the flame of your candle, you can go back to the nearest source of fire and relight it. Sometimes, the candle is actually instrumental when it comes to solving a puzzle. You might have to use certain items together with your candle to open up new paths and continue your journey. Lastly, your candle can be used to expose hidden passages and other secrets in the environment. Teku can charge the energe of the fire and cause a radiant explosion of light to emanate from his hand and divulge any secrets that are located within the range of said explosion.
When it comes to making your way through the treacherous world of Candle, you will always have to be on your guard. If a Wakch warrior spots you or feels the presence of your candle, he gets really annoyed and starts chasing you down. Just remember that, if he catches you, you will die. Same goes for the more dangerous animals in the game. Sometimes, they're blocking your path in clear view. At other times, they will be somewhat more hidden in the environment, waiting for an unsuspecting passer-by. Some of the animals are afraid of fire, so you can use your candle to scrae them off. Others, on the other hand, are attracted by it and will follow you because of it. Just make sure you know which type of enemy is afraid of fire and which just gets annoyed and wants to kill you for it.
Candle is, in my never so humble opinion, a brilliant game. The beautiful watercolor art, the contextual puzzles, the soundtrack; the overall feel of the game just makes me want to play it! The world of Candle is one I'm glad to be in, although a lot of things are trying to kill me before I can complete my quest. And because most puzzles are not always as straight-forward as they might seem at first glance, Candle is a truly challenging game for even the most seasoned adventure veteran out there. So, if you like a beautiful and challenging adventure game, you're definitely going to want to play Candle! Trust me, I know these things... no really... Just take my word for it, will you?!