My parents always told me never to judge a book by its cover. The saying describes Sparklite perfectly. Upon the opening moments, the narrative captivated me. The conflict between the people Geodia and their struggle against the villainous Baron had me interested. The problem started after my first death when I realized that Sparklite was a roguelike. The genre is everywhere, and honestly, I’ve grown fatigued by it. Fortunately, Sparklite does enough to make it stand out among the rest. By the time the credits rolled, I had found my time with heroine Ada to be a memorable experience.
Sparklite is very reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda. Fans of that series will feel right at home. From the visuals to the score to the map layout, I constantly felt like I was playing old-school Zelda games that defined my childhood. Ada is equipped with a hammer and a secondary attack. These are gadgets that are found in various dungeons. Most of them are projectile guns that use energy as ammunition. While Sparklite encourages the use of gadgets in combat, I primarily stuck to the hammer. The reason for this being that Ada’s hammer is particularly strong when it’s charged up. So much so that many enemies would die after one-three attacks from a charged hammer.
When Ada dies, she is teleported to the medical bay of The Refuge, a hub world with a laboratory, store, and bestiary. It’s a place to relax and prepare yourself for future runs. In the medical bay, you can use/buy badges to expand Ada’s skills. You can increase your health, strength, energy, and damage you take. There’s a strategy in picking your loadout because the space in Ada’s inventory is limited. I consistently changed my energy meter and strength to deal with the enemies my current mission required me to kill.
Difficulty and exploration
Sparklite seems simple enough, but some of the enemies really test Ada’s skills. The game is split into five areas, each with their own biome, enemy types, and obstacles to avoid. The swamp area proved to be particularly tricky because of the acid puddles that drained my health meter. Your main objective is to defeat a titan in every biome and close down the furnace that fuels each area. The boss battles aren’t too difficult once you discover the correct pattern. The roguelike elements come into play once you die. After respawning and dropping back into the main world, you’ll notice that the entire map is foggy. This means that unless you have specific items that reveal landmarks scattered in the world, every space on your map is a mystery. Exploring difficult areas after death proved to be a challenge for me.
There are hidden items to find called Beats. They are musical creatures placed around the map. You don’t get rewarded for finding them but exploring requires using the skills you’ve acquired during the journey. You’ll know a Beat is close when they start harmoniously singing in an area of the map. I found looking for these creatures to be a nice distraction from the primary goal. Although, I would have preferred if there was an incentive to hunting down and collecting Beats.
Ada is also equipped with a device called the Wingnut, which can be used to mine for sparklite (currency), illuminate dark places, and clean up goop in the environment. I played solo, but once you discover the Wingnut, another player can take control of the device.
Sparklite: Blast from the past with some new ideas
While Sparklite is very much a modern experience, there are a lot of classic influences scattered around. I mentioned how Zelda fans would feel at home, but gamers who grew up in the 16-bit era will have an absolute blast. The visual style and the music transported me back to my childhood. I loved every bit of Sparklite’s aesthetic and respected that the development team clearly made a love letter to influential games while creating an experience all their own. Even with the roguelike genre feeling oversaturated in the video game industry at the moment, Sparklite works well because it feels very accessible. Sure, there are difficult moments, but all video games have some sort of challenge to them. Roguelikes are notoriously difficult, with often controller-throwing moments. Sparklite respects players with an experience that isn’t overwhelmingly difficult without holding your hand as well.
Sparklite lasted around six hours, and I enjoyed almost every minute of it. The gameplay is fluid, there isn’t any slowdown, the visuals are fantastic, the score is infectious, and the narrative is enjoyable. It’s a simple story that didn’t overstay its welcome. People who love the roguelike genre and those who feel fatigued (myself included) should give Sparklite a shot. It’s a refreshing entry in the genre and one that I’ll probably revisit from time to time. Ada’s journey is entertaining, and you should definitely give it a shot.