Stop me if you’ve heard this one: the world is in danger and you, a voiceless protagonist, must step up and save life as you know it with the aid of a small, verbose, flying companion. While the setup may be similar, Sparklite quickly establishes its differences from the popular Legend of Zelda series with a rogue-lite twist. You take command of Ada, a young pilot with origins unknown, whose ship crashes. In this universe, the ground below is fragmented due to drilling done by a villain at the head of the Baron Mining Corp and his environmentally destructive cohorts and those wishing to survive have taken to the skies as sanctuary. It’s up to you to stop the Baron Mining Corp, but first you must find his Titans–each of which reside in a different biome that can only be traversed by discovering and recreating the technology left behind by the Founders. Are you hero enough for the task?
Typical to these sort of 2D action adventure games, the map is separated into several different biomes, each of which can be accessed in a linear fashion by unlocking the skill or gear necessary to move forward. Usually, this means beating the hulking boss found somewhere within your current biome. Because Sparklite is a rogue-lite, dying means being sent back to home base sans the widgetsit, ems like explosives and health restorers with a set number of uses, you picked up. You keep any sparklite, the titular energy used as currency, you find by breaking objects or by defeating enemies as well as any patches, which serve as permanent upgrades to Ava’s health, energy, and attack power. It is in this way that you slowly build up Ada’s strength in the face of failure.
Sparklite’s world map is procedurally generated, ensuring a different experience every time you head down to the surface. This means that you’ll find some structures like mine shafts that allow you to pass through a gauntlet of traps or enemies in order to secure a new patch one run, but not the during another. As such, it will take a little luck and a helping of skill to progress. In order to travel between areas, you’ll need to fell the boss Titan hidden within each biome. Getting to them is no easy task as you must defeat enemies and brave structures in order to do so. This is also where the risk versus reward factor comes in. Because you are dropped in the same starting biome every time you make a run, searching for powerful widgets amidst enemies bent on your destruction may result in you losing too much health to challenge the boss. On the other hand, bum rushing the boss without the proper arsenal could prove to be your undoing.
Combat in Sparklite is fluid and responsive. Eva has the ability to dash, which is good for avoiding enemy attacks as well as crossing over gaps, and additional gadgets allow for skills like ranged attacks and shrinking herself. Enemies have patterns of attack that make them a cinch to deal with once learned. Bosses, too, have attack patterns though it may take a few attempts to learn what these vicious giants have hidden up their sleeves. I’ll admit I’m not the most adept action adventure gamer, but with Sparklight there was never a time I felt that there was some challenge I couldn’t surmount with a bit of grinding. To me, that’s great rogue-lite design.
While exploring the fractured lands you’ll also encounter NPCs that can be recruited to inhabit your home base, known simply as The Refuge. Some of these characters will set up shop and give Ava access to upgradeable facilities. The workshop, for example, allows Ava to recreate gadgets she discovers blueprints for, while the clinic gives the option to outfit her wrench multi-tool with new patches. Upgrading the facilities in your base using sparklite gives you access to a greater range of benefits.
Sparklite is oozing with charm. From the pixelated sprites to the rousing soundtrack to the wacky characters you’ll meet, the world is flush with things to see. It was difficult to put this one down once I got started and I’m excited to see what indie studio Red Blue Games will come up with next!
Sparklite is something special and a must-play for genre fans, though some may find the difficulty level to be lacking. The “one more run” mentality is strong here, made doubly so by a combination of fluid combat and rewarding risk-versus-reward mechanics. There’s a lot to like here and I can wholeheartedly recommend Sparklite to those itching for a Zelda-ish adventure or those who enjoy rogue-lites.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Gameplay - 9/10
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 9/10
Replay Value - 9/10
The embodiment of “one more run,” Sparklite is rogue-lite-meets-Legend-of-Zelda done right.
- Assortment of gadgets and widgets to suit different play styles.
- Vivid, retro look.
- Fluid combat.
- Rogue-lite aspects done well.
- Bosses challenging.
- No difficulty settings; veterans of the genre may find themselves blazing through this one.
- Relatively short run time.
- A lot of backtracking required to progress.