Tales from Candleforth Review

April 28, 2024


Also on:
Xbox One

When Candleforth’s local mystic Dorothy is struck by a mysterious illness, she decides to hand over her secrets to her teenage granddaughter Sarah. The family has magical origins which manifest when members come of age, and Dorothy is being plagued by weird visions, so what better way for Sarah to prove her worth than by gathering ingredients to cure the affliction?  Parenting is certainly different for different people and since mum and dad are nowhere to be seen, I guess Dorothy is only trying her best…

OK, so it’s not a particularly original story, and Tales from Candleforth doesn’t really improve in the narrative department, not least due to grammatical errors and typos which take some of the shine off an otherwise polished horror adventure. However, there’s still plenty to enjoy here, especially if you’re a fan of the similarly creepy Rusty Lake series.

Evening darkness at the start of the night

Puzzles are gentle to begin with, such as locating objects in places you’d expect them, or completing Simple Simon-style sequences. After the prologue, the difficulty starts to ramp up. There are pattern alignment tasks aplenty as well as numerous boxes and cupboards to open. These require a roving eye over your locale to ensure you have picked up all available usable items or noted down any patterns that might come in handy. It’s a point-and-click which leans more heavily into the kind of escape room puzzles you’d find in Boxes: Lost Fragments or Doors, rather than the likes of LucasArts adventures where your inventory brimmeth over.

Some of the alignment tasks are very tricky, simply because they rely on you lining up obscure shapes. You could have all of the pieces in the right place, but just not rotated or moved them to the position the game requires — an early book puzzle and a later one with gravestones prove to be frustrating examples of this. Trial and error will generally see you through, although it’s far more satisfying to work them out using logic, and for the most part the puzzles do make sense. One exception was towards the very end where I had to select a number of symbols on a wall; it wasn’t at all clear which symbols needed to be selected and a walkthrough was my only solution.

To be fair, neither did we

Candleforth is unusual in its genre for being released on console as well as PC. Having played almost all point-and-clicks in my time on PC, I found moving the cursor around on PS5 to be comparatively clunky. It’s perfunctory, but accessing your inventory and selecting items is far more cumbersome than it should be, mainly due to small hotspots and a pop-out window which is eager to close. There are two inventory screens as well: one for items and one for notes. This feels like overkill and adds an extra step to proceedings; a single inventory would have worked just fine. This may not be a big issue for PC gamers, but it’s worth highlighting.

On a more positive note, Candleforth’s hand-drawn artwork is excellent. Sarah will find herself in creepy forests, dingy dungeons and a farmstead soaked in sunset rays, all with a distinctive look. Unfortunately it comes with a cost, as it’s not immediately clear in many cases if an item is usable or part of the scenery (the same affliction that befell Rauniot earlier this month). Careful mousing over entire areas is often required, but you’ll soon get into the rhythm of this and locations are generally not so chock full of items that it becomes a burden. 

It's time to play "Guess the Skull"!

The sound is similarly deserving of plaudits. Candleforth is filled with spooky orchestral earworms which could have come straight out of Danny Elfman’s back catalogue and one particular scene involving a crowd ramps up the bombast spectacularly. The game is also unafraid of peppering in moments of near silence at appropriate junctures.

It’s therefore a real pity that the story isn’t able to match the artistic design. Sarah’s journey is a standard “collect three items” quest, but we learn next to nothing about either her, Dorothy, or anything about their powers or history. Despite being described as a folk horror, you’re unlikely to experience anything frightening. There is certainly a fixation on hanging which might prove disturbing to some, but without context it’s nothing more than an abstract story beat. Furthermore, when I completed the game and the credits rolled, my overriding feeling was “Eh?”. This is a game that ends abruptly and confusingly, to the point that I’m not even sure if it can be called sequel-baiting. It’s a real shame given how strong the puzzles are throughout, and despite the promise of “Tales” in the title there is only one story here. 


Perhaps I missed something subtle, but for my money if developer Under The Bed Games had fleshed out both the narrative and the protagonist a bit more this could have been a fabulous addition to the genre. Still, it’s a decent enough debut from a budding indie studio which might be worth a look for the art and puzzles, if you have three hours to kill. 

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Tales From Candleforth impresses with its music, visuals and (mostly) logical puzzles, but falls short in both the story and scares departments.‍
Rob Kershaw

I've been gaming since the days of the Amstrad. Huge RPG fan. Planescape: Torment tops my list, but if a game tells a good story, I'm interested. Absolutely not a fanboy of any specific console or PC - the proof is in the gaming pudding. Also, I like cake.