There is a running joke in the Ouch That Hertz! office that all my reviews and features are full of fiery hot takes. Truthfully, it is probably more like half- but that is neither here, nor there. Our current society is ready to jump on any and everything for an instant reaction and/or hot take before waiting for the full story to unfold. This includes the recent viral video of an adult Cubs fan that appeared to steal a baseball from a little kid. Twitter erupted in hot takes and shaming before it could even get out that the fan had already helped get the kid, and several other fans, a ball earlier in the game. Sadly, this is what our society had come to. But, enough with all this talk about fiery hot takes, we should probably get to discussing the game at hand: Candle: The Power Of The Flame– a blazing game that developers Teku Studios has described as a “dynamic graphic adventure” and is every bit igniting as the title suggests.
This is a spot-on description, as the gameplay combines point-and-click graphic adventure games with puzzle platformers. The player takes control of Teku as he goes through this roughly ten-hour story. The preface of this story is that the gods used light to create the Earth before stepping away to see how society establishes itself. As they watched the evolution of what they created, they were pleased with the initial peaceful existence. As greed and power took over, however, the gods became angry and destroyed the world. They started over but the cycle continued; thus, the world had been destroyed four times. Candle: The Power Of The Flame takes place during the fifth attempt, which…well…is not going too well either. Teku and his tribe had lived peacefully on an island until one day the village was attacked and their shaman, Yaqu, was kidnapped. The player takes up the controls of Teku from here in the trek to find Yaqu.
Two things players will notice very quickly in the game is the artwork and the absolutely perfect narration. The game features beautifully hand-drawn and high detailed art that is presented in colorful watercolor. It is really a joy to take in and admire, while also being done for every location, character, object, and cut screen. Complementing this art style is a narrator that gives the player a storybook style narration that is prevalent throughout the entire game at just the right moments to best move the story along or provide translation for the amusing and cute illustrations that a lot of characters the player runs into will present. The cutest moment in the game is not an illustration or narration moment. Rather, it is when the player reunites a mother monkey with her lost baby. The resulting animation is so adorably cute and worth the effort it takes to solve the puzzles to get to that moment.
Solving these types of puzzles is at the core of this game, even though it is described as a graphic adventure game mixed with a platformer, as is seems it is mostly based around solving puzzles and remembering clues from earlier in a level to solve a puzzle later. One would [incorrectly] assume early on that this was a small game with basic levels that do not intertwine much. It is only when they find a shortcut or that a new area connects with an older area to solve a puzzle that the player realizes this is a massively interconnected world. This is best seen when the player must collect honey for a bunny to lead to a series of events that will allow a trapped character to be saved. While the puzzles are amazing, and the graphic adventure story is done amazingly, the platforming sections placed throughout the game leave a bit to be desired and drags the game down a bit sadly. This is only heightened when everything else around these areas are such high caliber.
Another issue with the game is the fact that Teku feels sluggish at best when walking, which plays a part in the platforming sections being a bit of a letdown. However, unlike the recently-released Dream Alone, Candle: The Power Of The Flame lets the player run with its main character. Aside from that, the only other issues in the game mostly comes from quality of life features. The biggest one is that in handheld mode on the Switch, the menu boxes are tiny and not the easiest to read. It is as if they did not scale the boxes for smaller screens properly. Then there is the fact that there is no autosave feature and players must manually save at specific spots in the game. Luckily, the save spots are placed generously and there are a ton of invisible respawn checkmarks for when the player dies. In the end, neither of these really takes away from the entire experience and are more minor footnotes.
Candle: The Power Of The Flame is a challenging, yet fair “dynamic graphic adventure” game that uses its exquisite charm in just the right dosage for anyone playing the game. This is benefited by its unique usage of the flame mechanic that is innovative while being used to solve seemingly impossible puzzles in a way the player will surely enjoy. Better yet, those “Eureka!” moments will condition the player’s mind to look for solutions related to the flame when they are stuck on a section of the game. It categorically ties everything together into a nice neat glorious present of a game that players may not have had their eye on initially. Teku Studios knocked this one out of the park and I honestly cannot wait to see what they have in store for us next! Until then I guess I’ll just keep cranking out hot takes for everyone’s reading pleasure. (Ryan Williford; Gaming Editor)
Review copy provided by Merge Games; reviewed on the Nintendo Switch in handheld mode.