Unless you’ve been living in complete darkness, nestled under a rock that’s void of access to your trusty Switch console (and a Wi-Fi connection), you will have noticed the eShop is gathering quite the collection of eerie and melancholic platforming titles as of late. The likes of Limbo, Inside and Little Nightmares all do a grand job of sending the player down a poorly lit alleyway with little means to defend themselves. On the other side of the coin sits Candle: The Power Of The Flame, which succeeds in providing a calm and colourful alternative that sparks a flicker of promising light in the grainy and sinister genre.
The story follows the sudden capture of a Shaman that has fallen into the grips of the evil Wakcha tribe and the responsibility to chase after him to return order to the village is gifted to Teku, who you control. With the light from the candle that Teku holds, and with a much-needed sharp eye for minute detail, you embark on a 2D adventure filled with enough artsy backdrops, devilishly challenging puzzles and plenty of backtracking.
See, it’s instantly apparent that Candle wants to be (or may have started out as) a point and click adventure. From the subtle hints of precariously bundled rocks that make up a vague pattern to a small and a hardly noticeable button set in the middle of the muddy path ahead; keeping your eyes peeled for any sign of help becomes paramount from the outset. Make no mistake: this is not for those that want a walk in the park on a comfortable summer’s day. It’s never cruel, but Candle prides itself on never letting up on the high difficulty front. Seen a small totem at the top of a ledge? You can forget about retrieving that for nearly an hour as the workaround to nab it is a long and convoluted procedure.
Frustration is dampened thanks to the comical windows of cartoony dialogue that occasionally pop up over many of the eccentric characters you meet along the way. Yes, fetch quests are here but, much like grabbing that totem from that ledge, it’s not a case of going from A to B. We find ourselves backtracking to where Teku first landed, only to realise that the answer is right in front of our eyes the whole time, in the distance… behind a curtain.
Traversing back and forth is a real treat for the eyes, though. The artistic team has clearly spent a magnificent amount of effort creating a lavish, watercolour world that’s carefully and intricately layered to give you a real sense of depth. The animation is brilliant, too; from Teku to the puzzle puppet show daemon, everything is hand-drawn in a striking and charming watercolour style that's unlike anything else on Switch.
It’s just a shame that controlling Teku isn’t such a joy. Navigation is sluggish and, at the worst possible times, it’s unpredictable. We encounter countless accidental suicides while exploring the many levels Candle has to offer and this could easily be rectified if the controls were tightened and made more responsive. Trial and error certainly come into play, but it eases up thanks to the generous amount of respawn points and the lack of any notable dent to your progress when the little tribesman tumbles to his demise.
Vital points of interest – and ultimately integral parts to the challenging puzzles – tend to blend in with the surroundings that make for unnecessary and irritating trips to the other side of the map as you scour every corner and every sketch for a clue. Small, contextual pop-up prompts can be summoned from Teku with a press of ‘Y’, but they only give small ounces of help; the minuscule visual cues are of importance here.
Switch owners that are longing for a slower, more methodical approach to 2D puzzle platforming will want to give Candle: The Power Of The Flame a spin - even more so if they’re seeking a tough challenge that’s stacked to the rafters with whimsical charm and a striking art style. The title may well be home to some clunky controls and ferocious difficulty spikes from the moment you take control of Teku, but the immense sense of achievement married with what feels more like a piece of art than a video more than makes up for its shortfalls.