I’m a fan of rogue-lites that offer a rewarding sense of progress, especially when they’re as charming as Sparklite.
Players are put in the role of Ada, an engineer who finds herself in trouble when her ship malfunctions and crashes down into a world known as Geodia. Armed with just her trusty wrench and joined by her robot companion, Ada soon finds herself in trouble when she faces off against a vicious Titan that manages to wipe her out in combat. Fortunately, she’s rescued by a group known as The Refuge, who inform her that a bad guy known as the Baron is using these Titans to try and drain the world of all of its valuable resources.
Of course, it’ll take more than one defeat by a Titan to stop Ada, and thus begins her adventure to take out all of the Titans and bring an end to the nefarious Baron’s scheming. This consists of the player travelling across five different procedurally-generated environments, taking out its baddies, uncovering treasures and secrets, and vanquishing the Titan in that area. Sparklite takes a rogue-like approach where death isn’t permanent too – instead, you head back to the safe haven and use the loot and currency you’ve collected to improve Ada’s capabilities for your next attempt at stopping the Titans.
The combat of the game feels akin to that you’d see in the classic The Legend of Zelda games, though Ada wields a wrench as opposed to a sword. If you charge up an attack it can take the form of a hammer for increased damage too, whilst you’ll unlock plenty of weapons as you progress including the likes of a bow and some bombs – sound familiar? Whilst there are plenty of similarities in combat though (and some other aspects of the game’s design – hearts, anybody?), Sparklite has a few clever ideas of its own to differentiate it from Nintendo’s classic series.
One of these ideas comes with the gadgets that can be found in a shrine across each environment. These gadgets can be used to help scour the area for secrets or to gather more loot, but they’re also an effective means to hit enemies from afar too. Given the procedurally-generated nature of Sparklite’s levels, sometimes it’s easy enough to come across these through basic exploration – if you do happen to miss one though, it’s always worth taking the time to seek it out.
Another way in which Sparklite changes up its gameplay is with the Patches you can equip. The player can equip a certain amount of Patches to Ada, with each applying its own different upgrade – there are things like an increase in health, the ability to dish out extra damage, or even an indicator that shows where the Titan in each area is (which is handy given that the levels’ layouts reset each time you attempt them). There’s flexibility in the system to apply the patches that best suit your needs, whilst the fact you can upgrade them keeps the system feeling fresh throughout.
The titular ‘Sparklite’ that you collect comes in handy too, with the player able to invest in new Patches or the stores that are found in the safe haven. Investing in the stores is actually pretty vital – once they’re upgraded, they can offer you better wares to purchases or even give you the opportunity to upgrade your own gear. It’s a rewarding system that ensures that each failed attempt at a level in Sparklite isn’t wasted, but instead allows you to increase your odds at success for the next run.
Admittedly, Sparklite’s cycle could feel a little repetitive at times, especially since there’s an emphasis on grinding Sparklite and gathering Patches. However, with the levels themselves being of a reasonable size and most of the upgrades requiring a modest amount of Sparklite to unlock, it never feels daunting. It was satisfying to see Ada’s capabilities improve too, especially when you find yourself easily wiping out enemies that were quite daunting early on in the game. It helps that the combat itself is satisfying though, especially in the boss encounters where you’re faced with a formidable but fair enemy. That being said, the Titans could be a bit of a shock to the system at times given the difficulty spike they could bring, but it never felt overwhelming or that I couldn’t take them down – I just needed to figure out their attack patterns and ensure I equipped Ada with the best Patch loadout.
It is worth noting that Sparklite isn’t massive though and I was able to beat the game in around seven-hours. Those seven-hours were definitely well-spent and I had a lot of fun though, so it’s hard to complain. Just don’t expect to find anything in the post-game that’ll keep you playing after completion…
Those who like to play with a friend will be glad to see that Sparklite has a co-op multiplayer component. Unfortunately, it’s a little bit naff. The second player just gets to control Ada’s robot companion and help gather resources. The thing is, this is easily done in single player anyway, so it feels like more of a tacked on addition as opposed to a bona fide co-op experience. I mean, it’s hard to complain too much given that the developer didn’t have to include the mode, but don’t go expecting a jolly co-op adventure.
I will admit that tackling the levels can feel a little formulaic at times too. Don’t get me wrong, it never gets boring, but with the procedurally-generated layouts and the multiple attempts that it typically takes to clear a level, you do start to see some of the same things over and over again. I’ve always preferred levels that have been handcrafted and individually designed in adventures like this, and it’s clear that Sparklite is lacking that personal touch in places.
One thing I do have to give Sparklite praise for is its presentation, with the pixel art on the environments and characters looking marvellous throughout. I’m a big fan of these kind of visuals anyway, but Sparklite continually wowed me with its world. The music is pretty phenomenal too and some of the tunes I came across during my adventure are STILL stuck in my head now. Honestly, if you’re into your video game music, you simply HAVE to listen to Sparklite’s charming soundtrack.
Sparklite offers a thoroughly enjoyable adventure that simply never stops feeling rewarding to play. There’s a genuine sense of satisfaction to be felt as you improve Ada’s capabilities, whilst taking down enemies and the formidable Titans never gets boring either. Add to that a charming soundtrack and some pretty visuals, and it becomes clear that Red Blue Games have a winner here.
Sparklite is just a great little rogue-like and a fine addition to any Switch owner’s library of games.
Developer: Red Blue Games
Publisher: Merge Games
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC