Man, I'm actually not sure where to start with this one. There are parts of it that are amazing, parts that are still real rough around the edges, parts that are flawed but interesting, and parts that just astound me that they were attempted at all. Every piece ends up with another contrasting it so much that it's not just hard to decide where to begin, it's hard to even figure out how to lay out the whole of the piece in a digestible way.

Let's just try the absolute basics. Candle: The Power of the Flame is a 2D puzzle-platformer with some stealth elements. The premise is simple and straightforward: You're Teku, a humble villager from this little farming village. Your people are attacked and your shaman is taken, and you've got to get them back. Like a lot of these games, Candle is built around a few key mechanical gimmicks. In this case, the biggest one that the game brings is from its namesake, a simple candle that Teku carries around. When to carry fire, when to use fire, when to snuff it out, these are all going to matter a lot.

The other big mechanical difference from a lot of these games, is that Candle doesn't make each puzzle its own little distinct entity. A lot of the time, solving one puzzle means first going to solve another, which will give you the item or resource to solve a third puzzle, which will let you into the area where you need to be to solve that first puzzle. A good chunk of the work isn't even the actual solving of the puzzles, but working your way through the tangled web to find that one loose thread you can open up to get into the thing.

So, on the raw mechanical level, if we just look at this like it's one of those prototype builds where it's all cube-men sliding around grid world, Candle has some interesting tricks that set it out at least a bit from it's contemporaries. That said, it's still very much a puzzle-platformer, an example of its kind.

It's when we look at the other side, all the non-mechanical stuff, that Candle gets interesting.

I'm burying the lede a bit here, but Candle's art is, in a word, bonkers. This game is sitting in very rare company, where literally every single asset was hand drawn.

I don't mean drawn on a tablet. I mean drawn, by hand, onto a sheet of paper, and then colored using watercolors before being scanned in. Character sprites exhibit something akin to stop-motion "boiling", as the brush and pencil strokes shift ever so slightly from frame to frame.

The amount of work this involves is, I hope you realize, insane. If I am correctly understanding just how far they went, a given frame here literally involves at least as much work as the ones in Cuphead. That is the kind of rare company we're talking here. And trust me, it shows. Backgrounds look like they're out of children's storybooks. The good ones, the ones you go back and get for your own children.

Oh, and the whole story is told via a cheerful narrator, while the actual characters speak in pictographic bubbles. Which adds another layer of the whole storybook aesthetic of the thing. The story beats are built like you're being read a bedtime story.

Though, while the game doesn't have any explicit content I've seen, it's certainly no simple children's game. Some of these puzzles are quite easy, but some of them are really tricky multi-layer steps. And failure often means a tragic death for Teku, before winding back to the latest checkpoint. It's not even so much that I'd feel the game would hurt a young kid, as it would frustrate them past the point of putting it down for something else.

No, this is a game, if anything, for the inner child.

Of course, it's these contrasts and a lot of this very same hard work, that leads to some of the wobbly bits of Candle's design. The single biggest example I can offer of this is the game's animations. Because of the loving watercolor work, each frame of Teku's animation is precious, and took a lot of time and energy to make. This is fair.

But he also seems to need to return to neutral, or at least to a frame he can transition out of, before he can do a new thing. Because Teku doesn't have frames to transition from, and can't just snap from action to action with a lot of skipped animation frames, he ends up feeling a bit unresponsive. I know the game aims for being a slower, more ponderous title, which is why running is on a button instead of just pushing the joystick all the way, but joy of movement is still a thing. Because even within the tight limits of Teku's movement, I'm still going to want to gracefully and effortlessly bound through the light platforming segments, or even just the times I have to backtrack.

So what I'm kind of left with, is one of those questions of priorities. What matters more to you? What do you look for in a game? Candle has an art style, with an execution, that I've literally never seen in a videogame before. Its presentation is carefully built up to get this veryspecific tone, one that's a rather unique mix of elements mostly seen in other media.

But at the same time, I have to admit that it has a lot of little quirks and flaws, some of them brought up by technical limits, while others are from the very same artistic flourishes that make the game stand out so strongly on the eShop.

I mean, I know my priorities. I've long said I'd rather see a game try something interesting and stumble, than execute the same loop exceptionally well, and this applies double to indies. You might feel differently, is all. So I’m giving it a Recommendation. Just know that those quirks are there, and go in with that awareness.