When taking on a boss in Sparklite, there’s typically something big and red you should be targeting. The fight becomes rhythmic as you determine their attack patterns, running and dodging until a window of opportunity opens. When this happens — a weak point is exposed, you find an interval between onslaughts — you wail mercilessly on the boss with wrench and hammer, maybe with a gadget or two, before dodging away once again. It’s a solid, satisfying rhythm that culminates in glorious victory, although the outcome is often a little underwhelming. This serves as a good example of Sparklite’s overall quality: the game is competent without being groundbreaking. Considering the fact that the game’s ground routinely breaks apart, it’s a little ironic.
- What is Sparklite? Sparklite is a top-down action-adventure game
- inspired by the likes of The Legend of Zelda and Rogue Legacy.
- Reviewed On: Windows
- Price: $34.99 Switch, $21.00 PC, PS4, Xbox One
- Developer: Red Blue Games
- Publisher: Merge Games, Maple Whispering Limited
- Release Date: 11/14/19
- Website: http://redbluegames.com/games/sparklite/
- Multiplayer: Assistive Co-op
Fractures in the Ground, Refuge in the Sky
Geodia is wracked with quakes and “Fractures,” which transform the landscape and cause all sorts of chaos. Accordingly, a Refuge — an aircraft and home base powered by Sparklite — was built to protect those who would seek to resist the depredations of the Baron, who is obsessed with tearing apart Geodia and taking full advantage of its plentiful deposits of Sparklite. The Refuge serves as the main hub of the game, with buildings available to be unlocked and upgraded, providing items, gadgets, and power-ups to aid in the fight against the Baron.
Additionally, Ada can meet characters while out exploring Geodia, who will then return to the Refuge, offering boons like research on particular enemy types or map information. If defeated out in the world, Ada will be plucked out of harm’s way by a giant claw to recover in the Refuge’s medical facility. There, she can also purchase, combine, and equip Patches. Patches are important upgrades to vital statistics like health and damage. Her Patch Board has limited space, and different patches come in different dimensions. A big part of ensuring Ada’s effectiveness is optimizing her Patch Board.
There’s a lot of fun to be had in the process of exploring Geodia. I went about collecting Sparklite, snagging treasures with the use of various gadgets (and Wingnut, Ada’s floating robot companion), rescuing characters from danger, and then returning to the Refuge to capitalize on all of my accomplishments and enhance Ada’s equipment and abilities. Furthermore, the visuals of both Geodia and the Refuge pop with color and character, lending the game no small amount of charm. That said, certain environmental puzzles are so simplistic that they hardly deserve the name, and some of the controls feel imprecise and awkward. Overall, exploration and progression complement each other well, giving players a throughline while knocking down bosses on their way to the Baron.
Gadgets and Gremlins
Combat in Sparklite is fairly straightforward. Fans of titles like A Link to the Past will quickly get a feel for Ada’s repertoire. When enemies are sparse, the process of toppling them is rote and routine. When the density of enemies and projectiles increases, things start to pick up, and well-timed dodges along with smart use of gadgetry supply the edge needed to overcome the foe. There’s certainly some satisfaction to be had in picking apart encounters enemy by enemy, rushing down ranged attackers before entangling oneself in a melee. The best encounters incorporate that sort of thrill and shrewd environmental design, allowing for fun tactics and maneuvers.
However, combat is not without its issues. While there’s a decent amount of enemy variety, the feel of battles becomes repetitious over time. Eventually, I was tempted to rush past enemies simply to progress faster, and I found no barriers to doing so. But be forewarned: while you can certainly blaze through the map, homing in on the area’s boss, doing so too much may lead to you becoming underpowered for later areas. This tends to compound the urge to simply avoid combat for expediency’s sake. Granted, one can hardly fault the game for being played wrong, but it’s worth noting that the combat fails to consistently entice and engage.
Bosses fare a little better. While they don’t exactly dazzle (especially in comparison to bosses in other Zelda-inspired games), these fights are competently structured and fun to play. As mentioned in the introduction, there’s a nice rhythm to boss fights that keeps you on your toes, making victory all the more satisfying. Unfortunately (and without spoiling too much), the final boss introduces a few annoyances that serve to sour the game’s conclusion somewhat. While these annoyances certainly don’t ruin the ending, it would have been nice to see the devs take another pass at the Baron’s last stand.
High Ground View
As alluded to above, the visuals comprise one of Sparklite’s greatest strengths. Character designs evoke distinct personalities. Animations abound with cute touches and bring the world to life. Colors contrast nicely, with environments of blue and green emphasizing the shock of Ada’s red hair. The soundtrack, however, achieves less distinction. There’s a catchy tune or two to be heard, but most of the time, the sound design is merely serviceable.
One baffling choice is the inclusion of “assistive co-op.” One player controls Ada, while the other controls her robotic assistant, Wingnut. The only problem is that Wingnut has no combat capabilities whatsoever, and is really only good for using various upgrades to collect secrets and treasures. Secrets and treasures don’t appear all the time, mind, so you have one role that handles all of the combat and drives the action and another that… cleans up ooze. And digs stuff up out of holes in the ground. The Wingnut player is left with very little to do (very little of interest, anyway), which makes this “assistive co-op” feel like little more than an afterthought.
Game title: Sparklite
Game description: Join Ada and Wingnut as they set out to save the ever-shifting, ever-fracturing land of Geodia, where the miraculous energy source known as Sparklite may be found in abundance. Explore semi-randomized environments overrun by monsters and corruption, the handiwork of the insidious Baron. The Baron seeks to use the power of Sparklite to enrich himself, the catastrophic effects he’s wreaked on the planet be damned. Bring your wrench, hammer, and gadgets out there and stop him!
Visuals - 7/10
Exploration - 7/10
Progression - 7/10
Boss Battles - 6/10
Combat - 6/10
While it’s saddled with a few baffling decisions and a sense of repetition that partial randomness can’t compensate for, Sparklite holds itself together with beautiful visuals, fun exploration and progression, and a dash of charm.
- Great Art Direction
- Fun cycle of exploration and progression
- Solid, satisfying boss battles
- Repetitive combat, clunky controls
- Simplistic puzzles
- Assistive co-op feels like an afterthought