Available on: Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PC, Mac
Developer: Red Blue Games
Publisher: Merge Games, Maple Whispering Limited
Genre: Top-Down Roguelike, action-adventure
Version Tested: Playstation 4
Official Site: http://redbluegames.com/games/sparklite/
Release Date: November 14, 2019
When I saw early trailers for Sparklite, it gave me the same vibe and feelings that I got when I saw and played Moonlighter. Almost the same pixel art style, the satisfying and smooth animations. Sparklite is a top-down Rogue-lite that while it does take a few cues from Moonlighter and games like that, but it seems to fail to catch the “hard to put down” feeling I got when playing Moonlighter or Dead Cells, it is able to catch a lot of the charm and clever enemy design that had made its predecessors so enjoyable.
In Sparklite you play as a mysterious female protagonist, who’s airship is caught in a crazy storm and while your robot buddy introduces you to the basic combat mechanics while you fix your rapidly disintegrating ship. It’s all in vain though as your ship crash lands onto a mysterious land whose landscape has been ravaged by pollution caused by the Baron and his evil gang of Titans. Armed with only your upgradable wrench you fight through the wilderness and meet your first contact who introduces you to Widgets, which act as your side weapons and special attacks who brings you to The Refuge, a floating last beacon on hope to stop the Baron, end the insane amount of pollution that’s destroying the land, and collect the valuable Sparklite which acts as a currency in this universe. The main thing about this world is that because of the pollution caused by the Baron and his minions the world suffers from random earthquakes that will shift the landscape around so it won’t look the same, this acts as a clever mechanic to keep the environments moving and constantly shifting when you eventually die. Which is something you can expect to do a lot. But from there the game almost gets a little too predictable and barring a few twists and turns, you’re not going to be getting any new or revolutionary storytelling from this game.
Sparklite plays as you would expect a Zelda-esqe Rogue-lite to play. You have your trusty wrench with light attacks, hold the attack button for slightly longer and hit things a little harder. You have your Widgets that act as special attacks and secondary attacks, and a nice, quick dodge to get away from enemies as they wind up for an attack. Even your robot sidekick will be upgradable and have some puzzle-solving upgrades to help you out. The Widgets are a nice and fun element, some are collected through the story, most of them you have to go through challenge dungeons to collect. While these challenge dungeons offer fun distractions, most of them devolve into the same thing over and over again and quickly become repetitive and predictable.
Back to the combat, it offers a satisfying, if basic combat scheme. The absence of a block button is sorely missed though especially in some of the tougher late-game boss fights. The dodge does its job well enough, especially since most enemies take their sweet time to warn you that they’re going to attack, the big wined up, the pause, the extra pause to make double sure you’re ready, then the slow attack should give you ample time to get out of the way and even score a few hits if you’re lucky. The main weapon you’ll be using throughout the game is your wrench, which is upgradable through “patches” that you can put onto it to give you more stamina, more power and deal more damage. Upgrades for the wrench act as a mini-game in their own right as you have to almost play a game of Tetris as you have to pick and choose which upgrades you want, and since the patches come in different sizes and shapes this makes it needlessly harder then it needs to be. One frustrating thing about the combat though is the damage output vs. the usefulness and the availability of healing items. A few other games in the past have suffered from this where the enemies hit almost too hard, causing too much damage while healing items are extremely rare. Games like Moonlighter and Dead Cells have you carry limited healing items that come in handy and are upgradable to fix this problem, but Sparklite decided it didn’t need any of that nonsense.
As said before the game world is constantly shifting and moving, there is an issue with most of the layouts being used too many times making it predictable to find secrets and challenge dungeons, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing as familiarity makes it less frustrating as you have to trudge through the opening level to get to the different and new parts to fight their Titans, and liberate the area. Sparklite is collected on every run, the more you collect the higher you can upgrade your home base for bigger and better toys and Widgets. Sparklite isn’t lost upon death, but any resources such as grenades and flashlights are.
The Titans act as the final bosses of the area. Each of them has different puzzles you have to figure out in order to do damage and put an end to their reign, but if you haven’t explored and gotten the necessary upgrade patches, these tend to be very difficult, especially around the 4th area when you hit a rapid difficulty spike.
Graphics and Soundtrack
As you would expect from something in this genre of game, it uses pixel art reminiscent of the 16 bit SNES or Sega days. Everything runs very smoothly and fluid, the response time is nice especially when fighting Titans or the harder enemies. Everything is displayed in heartbreakingly gorgeous detail as the grass moves as you walk through it to the pixel birds flying away. If I did have a complaint about it is that in a lot of places the world seems almost empty with not a whole lot going on in some of the environments. It’s only jarring because a few more of these are so detailed and full of life that when you hit the bigger empty ones it’s almost like visual whiplash.
The soundtrack is ranked as one of my favorites providing catchy and melodic songs. The big plus is when used right the soundtrack of a game can capture how you’re supposed to feel, sorrow, joy, fear, excitement, and Sparklite does this to perfection.
Verdict: With some hiccups and fumbles, Sparklite offers an enjoyable way to kill some time. But If you’re a fan of the genre you’re not going to see anything new, as the predicable story and basic and often times frustrating combat do leave a lot to desire.
What did you think of Sparklite? Anything I missed? Sound off in the comments below!
- great soundtrack
- fluid combat
- pretty pixel graphics
- Predictable story
- limited and useless upgrades
- frustrating combat