Sparklite is a charming roguelite adventure game that launched for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch yesterday. I’ve been playing the game for the last week or so, and I’ve had a great time with it, so I thought I’d tell you about the five things I loved about the game, and one thing that I really didn’t enjoy.
5 Things I Liked
Sparklite begins with the protagonist, Ada, in her airship. Everything quickly goes south, and Ada’s airship is destroyed, forcing her to take an escape pod down to the world of Geodia. Since Sparklite is a roguelite, there is a level of randomness to Geodia, a world made up of five distinct biomes. Each time players die they are returned to the hub town, but when they head out into Geodia again, it will have been reshaped by fractures, causing every run, and every biome, to be new and interesting each time the player sees them.
Geodia is beautiful, and reminded me instantly of the 2D Zelda games I used to play on my GameBoy Advance SP, namely The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap. This is a world that is filled with enemies that have endearing animations, sparking nostalgia in anyone who played an older Nintendo console. During my time with the game, I was always eager to return to the world, because I couldn’t wait to see what new areas I could discover, where I’d find chests, and what bosses I might stumble across as I uncovered the newly reformed map.
Instead of using an RPG upgrade system for Ada, Sparklite focuses on a patch board, which can be upgraded through the course of the game. Initially small, the patch board can be broadened to take more patches for increasing Ada’s health, the damage she deals, her gadget power capacity, and many other qualities. There are even patches for revealing certain sections of the map as soon as you start a run, making it much easier to navigate to the other biomes.
The best part of the patch system is how it’s so similar to an RPG upgrade system in an MMO. By combining patches to be more powerful, or swapping them out to maximise health, damage, or gadget power, players can min/max Ada for their current needs. If you’re banging your head against a particular boss, then you can swap in all of your damage and health buffs over map patches. Likewise, if you’re exploring and gathering more currency to spend in the town, then you can maximise your map patches to help you gather as much currency as possible.
The changes you can feel in Ada once you’ve switched up your patches are instantly noticeable, and set Sparklite apart from from any other roguelite in the genre. This is a genuinely satisfying system that rewards players for being smart, not just upgrading their weapon and smashing stuff until they can move forward.
Every biome and boss fight in Sparklite has a unique soundtrack, and it’s all wonderful. Whilst it brings back memories of certain areas of classic Zelda titles, Sparklite’s soundtrack is different enough that it becomes what you identify the game with. As you play, you’ll develop a favourite biome that you simply have to visit, just so you can hear the music again. I can’t emphasise enough how well made the music in this game is, but I’d say it’s worth buying the game just to hear it.
As players progress through Sparklite’s story they’ll meet and unlock new characters. Each of these NPCs will return to the hub town that Ada is brought to between runs on Geodia, and they all have identifiable personalities, quirks, and perks that make them useful and memorable. From the shop vendor who can be upgraded to offer more items, to the scientist obsessed with enemies of the world, the musician collecting little musical birds, and the twins who are constantly getting lost, every single character adds to the game’s story, even if they form little to no part of it by themselves.
In Sparklite, Ada must defeat the Baron’s four Titans, and then the Baron himself. Every boss is in a different biome, and they’ve been designed to look an d fight in a way that reflects that area. One of the first bosses is a great wood-chopping machine, one of the harder encounters of the game, whilst another is a mechanised scorpion that is almost constantly attacking you. Every boss feels on a par with one from Dark Souls, because you need to learn their movesets, avoid their attacks, and, when you can, only get as many hits in as is safe. The patch system is essential to taking every boss down, changing the way Ada fights to suit the current encounter. But the best part about the bosses is the way they move, the way they fight, and just generally how they look. I know I’ve compared Sparklite to Zelda in a number of areas, but the bosses really is one of the most obvious areas where the Zelda inspiration bleeds through.
1 Thing I Hated
Unfortunately there was one aspect of Sparklite that I really didn’t enjoy, and it stopped me playing a couple of times. The game has a few difficulty spikes, especially early on, that feel almost artificially built to push the player to their limits. For example, a couple of early bosses are extremely hard, and took me multiple tries to kill them, while later ones were finished off on my first attempt. The final boss of the game also has a mechanic that is honestly one of the most frustrating I’ve played with in a long time. It harks back to older games when checkpoints were sparse, and games often had to be completed in one go because there was no save system. If these difficulty spikes were softened even slightly, I’d say Sparklite was a perfect game, but as it is these unnecessary challenges are definitely flaws.
So there you have it, five things I loved about Sparklite, and one thing I hated. I want to make it clear that overall I really enjoyed Sparklite, and I think it’s a fantastic game. I’d almost go as far as saying the game is essential, but I think it is only essential for Nintendo Switch owners because of the Zelda inspiration that is so glaringly obvious, but well done. Let me know what you think about Sparklite in the comments.