Sparklite is a topdown roguelike action adventure game with a charming pixel art style. Play as Ada, alongside her plucky robot friend, and stop the Baron from using the ore known as Sparklite for evil purposes. With the ability to repurpose Sparklite on top of the airship known as The Refuge, drop down to the polluted world of Geodia and take down titan bosses to free the world of its curses.
Sparklite is all about heading to the monster-infested and ever-changing surface below, harvesting gems (known as Sparklite) and bringing them back up to craft upgrades and unlock and upgrade shops. This makes everything feel like you’ve earned it, providing a great sense of satisfaction when you look back at your 10-15 hours of gameplay and seeing how far you’ve come. Whilst you’re down there, you may as well uncover key equipment, take down titan bosses and unlocking the next areas… you know, hero stuff.
Every time you find a new key piece of equipment, you must proceed through a tutorial dungeon that is focussed solely on said equipment. At the end, you don’t get to keep it, rather you can unlock it by upgrading the shop back on the airship. This may seem like a hustle, but it actually encourages you to continue exploring and is not just rewarding you for stumbling upon something as you aimlessly wander about.
The titan bosses are challenging, but not to the point of impossible. They play out as you’d expect from games such as these, with needing to learn the enemies’ attack patterns, movements and weak spots. Depending on how much preparation you do prior to the fights can often determine whether you’ll win or not as you won’t get far unless you upgrade your equipment on The Refuge.
We often look back on games from our childhood with fondness, only to play them again and realise all of the little flaws that game design has improved upon over the years. One of those things was when a boss fight had multiple stages and longwinded dialogue that you couldn’t just skip, so you find yourself going through the motions and mashing that button until you get up to that part where the real challenge is. Without spoiling too much, Sparklite’s final boss is exactly that and it had me pulling my hair out in frustration. The boss fight itself is difficult to the point that you’d expect from a final boss where you’d need multiple attempts, but doing the entire first stage again just became monotonous and tiresome. It certainly left a bitter aftertaste after a pleasant experience otherwise.
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The loading times are surprisingly long for a game such as this. I found this to be especially troublesome when traversing from one main area to the next. In addition to this, I experienced a few bugs that left me stuck as well as the game crashing on me just the one time. These issues can all be fixed and touched upon in future patch updates, but be warned for those choosing to buy Sparklite at launch.
Sparklite features HD Rumble, but I would say that it is simply standard rumble. It doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary and for a game focussed on mechanical tweaking, it’s a little disappointing. However at the end of the day, any rumble is better than no rumble at all. The game also features touchscreen controls in handheld mode that allows you to interact with the menu UI with a lot less hassle.
With Sparklite being a roguelike, I’m still not sure how I feel about it. On one hand, the game being a roguelike encourages continuous exploration, keeping the player on their toes and allowing for different tactics to be attempted when preparing on the airship; however on the other, roguelikes always lack that ingenuity of crafting a world that is tailored for specific moments. Sure, each frame has its own unique structure that allows for a task to be undertaken, but it feels choppy and bite-sized rather than the map being an overworld to explore and remember. At the end of the day it will come down to personal preference, I suppose.
For a roguelike topdown action adventure game, I was very surprised that there was no option to include a mini-map on screen. The full picture can be accessed by the main menu, but I often found myself having to repeatedly go in and out just to navigate my way around. It’s a small detail, but it’s a small detail that could’ve really helped the player’s overall experience.
The game’s plot is one that works backward, revealing the origin of the devastation the more that you work to fix it. Uncover ancient secrets that, without showing, creates an entire world now past. That, coupled with the ancient but advanced technology, strengthens the idea of an advanced civilisation brought to ruin.
The main themes centre around the negative effects that war has on the environment and how the pollution can damage the ecosystem. By no means does it shove political agendas down your throat and at the end of the day, it creates a gripping tale that leaves the player thinking on current world events.
The characters, whilst charming, may be the low point of this game’s setting. Each character seems to lack that Je ne sais quoi that leaves them feeling not as memorable as one would first imagine.
Graphics / Art Direction
The pixelated art style is common for an indie top-down action adventure such as Sparklite. However despite its retro-inspired presentation, your character can still move in a 12-directional layout. This helps to create that art style that us old school gamers are fond of without sacrificing the fidelity of the gameplay.
The sprite shading is fantastic, with intricate detailing on key objects and landmarks. I especially love the stylings on the anchor as pictured above. It all comes together to make a nice cohesion that I can only give two enthusiastic thumbs up to.
Music / Sound Design
The soundtrack is charming and whimsical, providing a healthy dose of nostalgia to an era long past. I especially enjoyed the track that plays when you’re on the airship as it captures the game’s themes perfectly (but that’s a bit difficult to show in a written review).
With a game so heavily inspired by the Legend of Zelda franchise, staples that are missing tend to stick out like a sore thumb. Specifically, when uncovering a secret or solving a puzzle, I kept expecting it to follow with a little jingle to announce my accomplishment but alas, dead silence; it happened occasionally, but not as often as I expected it to. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it becomes glaringly obvious and it rips out a certain flare.
Final Score: 78%
Sparklite is a charming adventure filled with gorgeous pixel art and a rewarding crafting system. Despite some of its mechanical drawbacks, it stands on its own as a great addition to the topdown action adventure genre. A lot of what needs to be tweaked can be done in future updates which at the time of this review, hasn’t happened yet. Therefore, unless you’re dying to get your hands on Sparklite, it might pay to hold out for a patch update.
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