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Searching for a Shaman in a Hand-Painted Video Game

Teku Studios spent four years hand-painting a watercolor world for their game Candle, in which players decode puzzles through clues embedded in the art.

Scene from "Candle" (courtesy Teku Studios)
Scene from Candle (courtesy Teku Studios)

Each scene in Candlea puzzle-based video game released this month, took a month or more to create. Made by Teku Studios, and presented by Daedalic EntertainmentCandle was entirely drawn and painted by hand, its watercolors then animated digitally into a vivid journey that bursts with texture and color. The developers based in Teruel, Spain, wanted to immerse their players in a moving landscape where the flow and transparency of watercolor, and its imperfections, builds a distinct world of overgrown ruins beneath rose and yellow skies, and mysterious caverns drenched in purple hues.

“This is the result of a crazy idea: creating the best 2D adventure out there, and doing it by using traditional hand-made art techniques,” writes Jose A. Gutiérrez, co-founder and art director at Teku Studios, in a post at Unity. “When we started, yes, four years ago, we couldn’t see what was coming.” You can hear Gutiérrez and the Teku Studios team talk more about the process in the video below:

The laborious game was helped along by a successful Kickstarter campaign. In Candle, you play as Teku, a masked wooden creature that’s a sort of cross between Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy and No-Face from Spirited Away. The setting, accompanied by a lively pan-flute-punctuated soundtrack, is a pre-Columbian South American-influenced jungle. Colossal stone figures rise from rainforests full of twisting trees accented in blue, and dangers lurk at every turn, sometimes even in the form of a portly pink toad who is eager to gobble you up, the watercolor animations rippling on its ample belly.

Artwork for "Candle" (courtesy Daedalic MPR)
Artwork for Candle (courtesy Daedalic MPR)

Your one power as Teku is a tiny flame carried in one hand like a candle, to bring light to the darkness and scare away foes as you search for the missing shaman of your ransacked village. The puzzles are often challenging, although many times clues are cleverly hidden in plain sight, sketched in the artwork itself. If, however, like me, you are rather terrible at jumping in games, the keyboard controls can cause some frustrations, and neck fractures for poor Teku (luckily the save locations are generous). And if you reach an impasse, Candle is beautiful to look at, as small Teku treks through the intricate watercolor scenes, each a digital diorama of hand-painted art.

Scene from "Candle" (courtesy Teku Studios)
Scene from Candle (courtesy Teku Studios)
Scene from "Candle" (courtesy Teku Studios)
Scene from Candle (courtesy Teku Studios)
Scene from "Candle" (courtesy Teku Studios)
Scene from Candle (courtesy Teku Studios)
Scene from "Candle" (courtesy Teku Studios)
Scene from Candle (courtesy Teku Studios)

Candle by Teku Studios is available now for Mac, Linux, and PC. 

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