A while back I took a look at the indie action adventure game Moonlighter. I wouldn’t consider action adventure games to be my favorite genre, but I enjoy most of them that I end up playing. In particular I really enjoyed Moonlighter. I bring this up because the game I am looking at today reminded me a lot of Moonlighter. From the gameplay to the atmosphere Sparklite seemed very similar to Moonlighter. The Steam page for Sparklite even mentions Moonlighter along with The Legend of Zelda. As I liked Moonlighter I was excited to try out Sparklite. Sparklite may not be the most original game, but it is a fun and interesting action adventure that fans of the genre should enjoy.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Merge Games, Maple Whispering Limited, and Red Blue Games for the review copy of Sparklite used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.
In Sparklite you play as Ada. Ada is traveling on her airship when it is suddenly struck by storms which tear the ship apart. Ada eventually finds her way to a floating town. It turns out the land of Geodia is in trouble. The land is powered by a resource known as Sparklite. Sparklite powers the world, but it can also be used as a powerful energy source. This has sparked the interest of “The Baron” who sees the resource as an opportunity to grow his power. Mining the resource is wrecking havoc on Geodia though as it is transforming the otherwise peaceful wildlife into dangerous creatures. The mining of Sparklite has also lead the planet to regularly reconstruct itself. Ada must defeat the Baron and his henchmen to put an end to the mining before Geodia is destroyed forever.
At its core I would classify Sparklite as an action adventure game. The main gameplay involves being dropped off on the surface with your trusty wrench. Like the original Legend of Zelda the game world is broken down into a grid. Each section of the grid is filled with enemies and other things to explore. The objective of the game is to explore the different sections fighting enemies and finding treasure which you can use to upgrade your character’s stats and skills. As you explore you will encounter small side missions that you can complete to gather even more treasure. The ultimate goal is to reach the section of the grid that features the current zone’s boss. If you can beat the boss you will be able to move onto the next zone. You ultimately need to beat the bosses in five different zones.
Combat for the most part is pretty simple. You begin the game with a wrench which will remain your main weapon for the entire game. Combat mostly involves hitting enemies with your wrench while you avoid their attacks. The game also gives you a dodge which allows you to get out of the way of enemies that are about to attack. As you explore you will acquire various limited use gadgets which give you various benefits. These benefits range from healing you and giving various stat boosts to explosives and other gadgets that can be used to damage enemies. In addition you will get the ability to build various equipment like a bow and arrow or floating bombs which give you secondary attacks to use during combat or to solve basic puzzles. You will use these gadgets and equipment along with your wrench to defeat enemies while also trying to avoid damage.
Avoiding damage is important in the game as you don’t have a lot of health. To begin the game you only begin with three hearts. Enemy attacks generally take off between a quarter to a full heart so you can only be hit a couple times before you die. Dying in Sparklite is where the rogue-lite mechanic comes in. When you die in Sparklite you are immediately returned to the village. You will lose all of the gadgets that you acquired during your run, but you will get to keep all of the Sparklite you acquired. You will use this Sparklite to purchase upgrades so you are hopefully more successful in your next run. After each death the map is rearranged. Therefore you have to re-explore the world the next time you return to the surface. The game seems to use pre-built sections thet are randomly chosen from and assembled to create the world.
The Sparklite you gather during your adventures is used for most of the upgrades in the game. You can use the Sparklite to build and upgrade the shops around town which will give you various benefits for your next adventure. Most of your money will be used in the medical center though. The upgrade system in Sparklite utilizes a sort of board that features a grid of spaces. Throughout your adventures you will acquire various upgrades which can be equipped to this board. Each upgrade takes up a certain number of squares on your board so you have to prioritize which upgrades you would like to equip. As you gain more Sparklite you can increase the size of your board, combine upgrades to make them more powerful, or buy additional upgrades that you can place in your board.
As soon as I started playing Sparklite it reminded me of quite a few other games from the action adventure genre. In particular Sparklite reminded me a lot of Moonlighter and the original 2D Zelda games. Sparklite takes inspiration from the original Legend of Zelda with how the game world is randomly assembled and broken up into different sections that you travel between. The combat is also quite similar. Of games that I have played recently though I think Sparklite compares most favorably with Moonlighter. Sparklite doesn’t include the shop mechanics from Moonlighter. Sparklite also only has one main weapon type compared to the different weapon types that you can choose from in Moonlighter. The combat in Sparklite felt a lot like the combat in Moonlighter though. Fans of 2D Zelda games as well as games like Moonlighter should feel quite at home with Sparklite.
Sparklite is not a perfect game but I had a lot of fun playing it. I think the main reason why the game succeeds is that the controls are really good. When you die it will almost always be your own fault. You can’t really blame the controls as they are responsive to your inputs. The controls are quite simple for the most part. The analog stick controls movement while another button is used to attack. You also have a button dedicated to dodging and your gadgets and equipment get their own buttons. The reason why the gameplay is enjoyable is due to the combat being quite fun. It mostly just involves hitting enemies with your wrench and avoiding enemy attacks, but the combat is satisfying as it avoids becoming repetitive.
While I wouldn’t consider the rogue-lite mechanics to be a major part of Sparklite, they add an interesting element to the game. Each time that you die the world is scrambled giving you a new world to explore. This adds some variety to the game as you won’t always be exploring the same world. With the world always reshaping itself the game presents you with various side missions that are pretty fun and add some variety to the game. One side mission involves you reuniting a brother and sister during the same run. There are also goblin dungeons that present you with various challenges that you need to complete to receive a reward. Then there is Monty’s Haul which is an homage to the classic game show Let’s Make A Deal. This mini game lets you pick one of three treasure chests to hopefully find the jackpot. I don’t know if the mini game is broken, but I would highly recommend using the Monty Hall Problem method as I have never failed to find the jackpot.
For the most part I liked Sparklite’s atmosphere. I really liked the game’s art style as it is colorful and does a good job creating a unique world that you want to explore. The game’s style actually reminds me a lot of Moonlighter. The characters and world are interesting where you want to explore further. Sparklite’s music does a good job setting the mood. In some ways Sparklite’s story is a little generic as it shares quite a bit in common with your typical video game story. It may not be highly original, but I found it enjoyable enough that I wanted to see what would happen next.
One issue with Sparklite is that the difficulty can fluctuate quite a bit. A lot of this comes from whether you decide to grind for upgrades or not. Each time you die in the game you get to keep your Sparklite which means that you will consistently get stronger. If you are having a hard time beating a boss you could keep exploring in order to get enough Sparklite to purchase an upgrade that will make the fight easier. If you grind enough any boss fight can be made accessible for players of any skill level.
I am kind of curious if some players will ever have to grind though. If you are really good at these type of games I think you could potentially beat most if not all of the game without any grinding. The boss fights that I have encountered so far have been pretty straightforward. You just need to avoid the enemy’s attack which is usually pretty easy and then hit their weak spot. Players who are good at these type of games shouldn’t have too much trouble avoiding the enemy attacks. The only reason they may need to do some grinding is that your attack power and health are pretty low at the beginning of the game so you may need to purchase a few upgrades. To illustrate how easy the bosses can be at times I was able to beat one of them on my first attempt. I was exploring the third zone for the first time and had very little health left. As I was about to die I decided to check out the zone’s boss fight as I thought I might as well check out the next boss to see what I needed to prepare for. I was able to defeat the third boss on my first attempt without any new upgrades since beating the second boss and having no idea of what to expect from the fight. This illustrates how the difficulty in Sparklite can really fluctuate between zones.
Another issue with Sparklite is that the game is not highly original. Outside of maybe the upgrade system there doesn’t really appear to be any totally unique mechanics in Sparklite. The combat is very similar to most action adventure games in particular sharing a lot in common with the 2D Zelda games and Moonlighter. Even the atmosphere and story are not highly original. It may not be highly original, but the game does a good job utilizing these mechanics to make a fun game. Players that are looking for an original game are going to be a little disappointed though. A lot of the game is going to feel very familiar to people who play a lot of games from this genre.
Regular readers will know that I am a big fan of co-op in video games. When I saw that Sparklite had co-op I knew I wanted to try it out as co-op modes are usually quite good in these type of games. Unfortunately calling the multiplayer co-op is kind of misleading. A better way to describe the co-op is to call it “little brother/sister co-op”. Sparklite does support two players (after you beat the first boss), but it is not what I would call normal co-op. The first player plays as Ada and is responsible for all of the exploring and fighting. Meanwhile the second player plays as her robot assistant. The robot provides various assistance like digging up treasure, lighting up dark areas, and cleaning up goop. The robot provides no support in combat or in exploring. Basically the second player is tagging along for the journey and plays no critical role in the gameplay. Without a second player you just press a button to take control of the robot so playing the game co-op doesn’t really add much to the experience. I tried it out a little and found playing as the second player to be quite boring. If the co-op mode was important to you it will likely be a disappointment. The only people I could see enjoying the mode are younger children wanting to play along with their parents or someone that is only interested in the story/atmosphere and could care less about the gameplay.
As for Sparklite’s length I can only give you a rough estimate for a couple reasons. First the length is going to depend on how good you are at these type of games. Players who struggle with these type of action adventure games will be forced to spend more time grinding which will add quite a bit of time to the game. If you are really good at these type of games though you should be able to quickly move through the game as most of the zones only consist of 10-20 tiles. Players who are really good at avoiding enemy attacks could breeze through the game. I also can’t give a definitive length as I haven’t finished the entire game yet. At this point I have completed three of the five zones and have begun to work on the fourth zone. I have probably played the game for around three to four hours at this point. I am not exactly sure how long the rest of the game will take due to the fluctuating difficulty. My educated guess would say that it would take most players around 6-8 hours. Experts at these type of games could probably beat the game in around two to three hours while players who struggle with these type of games may take around ten hours.
Overall I enjoyed my time with Sparklite. Sparklite might not bring a lot of new mechanics to the table but it does a good job with what it has. At its core it is an action adventure game with a few light rogue-lite mechanics mixed in. Basically you explore the ever changing world gathering Sparklite to upgrade your character while trying to beat the boss that controls each of the zones. The combat in Sparklite is typical of the genre, but it is quite satisfying as the controls are responsive. The ever changing world and the various side missions that you encounter keep the exploration interesting. The game’s difficulty seems to fluctuate at times though where you will need to do some grinding for one boss and then speed through the next boss. This leads to the game being on the shorter side as players who are really good at these type of games could breeze through it. Sparklite’s co-op is also not much of a co-op experience as the second player has little to do.
My recommendation for Sparklite comes down to your opinion of action adventure games. If you have never really cared for the genre you probably won’t like Sparklite. People who like this genre of games, 2D Zelda games and Moonlighter in particular, should enjoy their time with Sparklite. For these people I would recommend that they pick up Sparklite.