I'm a fire starter, terrific fire starter.
NOTICE: Should you have urges to start fires, be they big or small, Nintendo World Report does not condone that sort of behaviour. We have a zero tolerance rule against such crimes (same rules apply to spelling Nintendo Land as one word).
However, exceptions can be made. For starters, if you’re an anthropomorphic ball of fire, you have a free pass or two. Your pyromaniac tendencies are a bit harder to fight off in the situation, and we understand. Luckily for DSiWare title Candle Route, its good looks and inclusion of the aforementioned living ball of fire work in its favour.
"Peace!" says Sparky, our protagonist. He's cool like that.
Candle Route places you in the role of Sparky, a being made of fire who just wants to do two things in life; light candles and set off rockets. As luck would have it, Candle Route allows players to do both those things, as it is broken into Sides A (wax igniting) and B (putting sky rockets in flight).
Side A plays out on the touch screen of your DSi/3DS, and has you placing flags around an obstacle filled area. These flags determine Sparky’s path. Your goal is to collect matches strewn about the stage, and use them to set candles ablaze in as few moves as possible. In fact, each stage provides you with a finite amount of flags and grades you based on how many are left when all is said and done. The obstacles that impede Sparky make navigating your surroundings difficult; some send our protagonist in an opposite direction, while others hide the matches away. Many of the game’s stages are open ended, meaning there’s more than one way to solve them. While the developer provides two hints per stage, it doesn’t mean those hints provide the only solution. Side A is definitely the stronger mode of the two. It creates a great balance of achieving a short-term goal (beating the stage)- and competing for a personal best (using as few flags as possible). Some stages look daunting, but by placing a flag and visibly seeing your path outlined, it’s easy enough to take your time and plan out your attack.
See how sad those candles are? Only fire puts a smile on their face.
Side B unlocks as you progress through Side A, stage by stage. In it, you take direct control of Sparky with the D-pad, guiding him through stages shrouded in darkness. His natural flame illuminates a small area around sparky, and by collecting matches the visible space around you grows. Within the stage stand rocket ships. Your goal is to navigate the maze, collect matches, and deliver them to the dormant spaceships. The stage ends when you’ve collected and distributed all matches. There are a couple strategies one can employ to tackle these stages. For starters, your first deposit of matches increases your original plodding speed. With that speed increase, you are able to quickly round up the remaining matches and drop them off. However, the faster you go the easier it is to fall victim to the stage’s traps. So one must be careful in deciding to tackle each level. The problem with Side B is it feels low risk. Side A says, “Here’s how many moves you can make. Do it or fail,” while Side B is all, “Well, rushing is a bad idea, so take your time.” Much like its counterpart, Side B also encourages besting your own score but fails to compel because of the limited view of the stage, creating guesswork. Side A allows the players to study and calculate their moves, while B literally keeps you in the dark on your surroundings. There’s just too much trial and error to keep you coming back.
Sparky? He ain't afraid of the dark. He kills it.
Constant throughout both Side A and B are the wonderful visuals and music, both of which reminded me of a Kirby game. The graphics were akin to those of Kirby’s Dreamland 3; every character was drawn and coloured in crayon, with the waxy markings always moving. The sound of the game brought Kirby’s Epic Yarn to mind, with piano tunes that sound straight out of a frighteningly good children’s band album. The only downside of the visuals is that both games focus on the bottom screen, which provides a view of the entire playing field. In Side A, the top screen displays a much closer and clearer view of the action, but it’s hardly second nature to look up once your touch screen decisions have been made.
While it is possible for Candle Route to proclaim, “Two Games in One!” on its imaginary retail box, you’re only getting one great game and something extra. Not to sound too dismissive, but in comparison to Side A, B is disappointing. Side A will grab you, though, and delivers a couple hours of fun content on its own.