Whispered Secrets: Everburning Candle
In GrandMA Studios' hidden-object adventure Whispered Secrets: Everburning Candle, asylums continue to prove that they are a lightning rod for supernatural activity and shady dealings in pop culture. The one in your town has just gone up in flames that can't be quenched by water, which is a pretty good indication that you're dealing with something weird even before the giant fist of flames starts smacking the firemen around. It's up to you to figure out the source of this supernatural, fiery fury before the blaze reaches the town, and what do you want to bet there's some sort of shadowy secret behind the asylum? With an interactive quick-travel map, Dark and Distressing Secrets(tm), optional match-3 minigames if you prefer instead of hidden-object scenes, and a serious amount of eye candy, Whispered Secrets: Burning Candle is a creepy but lovely casual adventure that might be a bit predictable, but still makes for an engrossing game.
Everburning Candle's gameplay is mostly familiar for the genre, as you click your way through various locations, gather items to solve puzzles, and get menaced by little ghost girls. The game occasionally offers you choices when it comes to your next action, though these don't often have much of an impact on the game as a whole, but you do get to perform the world's weirdest CPR on a drowning victim, and that's coming from someone who's played Final Fantasy 7. The downside is that a lot of the game's "puzzles" are transparent busy-work to an almost obnoxious degree. Why do I need to get a special item to hold open a cheap carabiner clip to slip a key off? Do I not have working thumbs? Things like this may be par for the course in a lot of casual games, but it feels like Everburning Candle might have wound up with better, more memorable puzzles as a whole if a significant chunk of them had been stripped out to give more time to developing the rest. Still, nitpicks from someone who's reviewed these games for nearly a decade aside, Everburning Candle is still an extremely user-friendly game. Its difficulty is highly customiseable, its puzzles never get obnoxiously difficult, the gameplay is varied and engaging, and all of it combines to feel professional and polished by people who really know their craft.
When it comes to graphics, Everburning Candle's overall visual design is darn near peerless. Details are sharp, colours are vivid, and every room, character, puzzle and cutscene is carefully rendered. The animation when it comes to characters is a bit more touch-and-go, made moreso by some overly dramatic voice acting, but it's all so gorgeous it's easy to ignore. The plot gets more than a little overly complex the farther you go, playing Everburning Candle is a very cinematic experience. The more overdramatic performances actually fit quite well within the flamboyant designs and set pieces, and there's so much going on that you're never bored. The stories behind the characters are interesting, and while a lot of the symbolism is a little overdone, Whispered Secrets: Everburning Candle feels alive with creative energy and storytelling in a way I wish more casual games would emulate. Players who don't like gory, violent, or excessively dark horror games may find the game the perfect middle-ground, since while a lot of its subject matter is grim, it's never particularly explicit or overbearing. Though its gameplay might not be as robust as, say, some of the Mystery Case Files games, Whispered Secrets: Everburning Candle is still a top-tier casual adventure that is an easy recommendation and stands out from the crow.d