Despite much of the early game being great, we’re solidly in “bad review” territory right now unless the last few levels turn out to be absolutely incredible experiences. Candleman’s nightmare stages are unimaginably bad (and the last level of the original Candleman experience dipping into those waters noticeably dampened my enthusiasm for the game in general), so continuing on from there in the Lost Light levels isn’t a great way to compel people to continue playing. The new mechanics are simply too finicky and the camera too random and haphazard for these levels to have any kind of positive impact. These nightmare levels weren’t a good idea.
The candle’s new nemesis is the filament light bulb, which these nightmare levels are centered around. This turns the game into a kind of survival horror experience, at least as far as the visuals are concerned, with desaturated colors and harsh blue lighting that quickly melts you if it touches you. There are a few problems with this. For one, it’s easy to miss details given the harsh lighting, and it wasn’t until I watched the video above with fresh eyes that I actually found a candle I was missing. The second problem is that you’re stuck waiting for shadows to slowly swing around, making exploration take much longer than it used to. Lastly, you can only gauge where the light can hit you on the ground, so it’s entirely possible (and incredibly likely) that you’ll jump up while in the shadows, only for the angle of the invisible cone of light to hit you unexpectedly and reduce the amount of time you have left to burn. While I understand why this happens, it nevertheless feels cheap.
And then new ghost things show up
I hated the previous levels’ ghosts and was glad when they stopped being used, so of course the nightmare would reach right back into its box of annoying tricks and start throwing more of these things at you. These are slightly different enemies, though, because they’re not repelled by the light. Rather, they’re attracted to it, and they’ll chase after you so long as they see you. If you light, then, they’ll instantly beeline for you and continue on that path for a short time even after they can’t see you anymore. That means that you’re not only dealing with the harsh lighting that makes it difficult to see things and quickly melts you, but also being punished for igniting to see where the platforms are by having an instant-death enemy chase you the second you light to check your surroundings. Challenging? Kind of. Fun? No.
The last nightmare level isn’t all bad, though. In it, you lure the monsters around in order to hide behind their shadows (and trick them into eating the bulbs). It’s not perfect, but there’s much less of a sense that you’re being punished for making sure you don’t walk in a pit. That still happens very easily, though, because the camera angle and need to light quickly (since the bulbs are bound to graze you once or twice and give you less light to work with overall) conspire to hide gaps between platforms.
Restarting is pretty handy
Okay, elephant in the room: the level above is incredibly boring. You basically just walk forward, with a little token platforming on top, but this still takes awhile because the area is pointlessly large. What sucks even more is that I managed to somehow miss a candle my first time through, so I hit the “restart” button at the end for the first time. Turns out that this allows you to restart the level from the beginning, but with all of your already-lit candles still lit. I can appreciate this saving some time, though it certainly would have been nice to figure this out on a shorter stage.
Sure, that makes sense
I remember when the game cleverly taught you its rules. You can see where this level tries to do that, but it doesn’t quite land because of how weird the new mechanics are. In short, there’s ice, and while this slowly melts when near a flame, it takes you a weird amount of burning to actually melt it yourself. It also cracks when you stand on it, quickly giving way under your weight, but cracking it and then lighting isn’t very effective, either. Then there are the little flower things. These are how you make it across the water, and they float in the direction you move in while on board. That isn’t very intuitive, and having an early one appear optional isn’t a great way of teaching the player how this works. Some of these flower things have candles in them, and these are great for melting ice as you float along, but I went back to check for missed candles hidden off the beaten path and that particular floating platform had floated off in the meantime. When I later tried to move a non-candle floaty that had melted free (or so the visuals suggested, ~6:07 in the video above), it refused to move. What I know now is that it was stuck on the surrounding ice because the ice has really awkward physics that counterintuitively manifest as friction, but at the time I couldn’t figure out all of this seeming inconsistency.
I could probably power through the final chapter’s five levels, but I need a break after all of that nightmare stuff. Hopefully they all turn out to be winners, because that would go a long way toward restoring the good will these last couple chapters lost.