I first saw Sparklite, the new title from publisher Merge Games and developer Red Blue Games, a little over a year ago and was immediately drawn to its 16-bit art style that brought back memories of playing classic Legend of Zelda titles. Fast forward to today and the game is now available on all modern platforms and I’ve finished my playthrough of this roguelike RPG. While having appealing visuals is important it is as equally as important to have an actual good game in there too. Does Sparklite deliver on both of these fronts?
The story of Sparklite follows a girl named Ada who’s ship has crash landed in the land of Geodia. This land is under attack by the evil Baron who won’t stop until he has disrupted the entire area and it ends up being up to Ada to put an end to his schemes. You’ll play through some early parts in the game before you ultimately are defeated and find yourself waking up back in the safe area of the game, a floating island called Refuge. This area is one of the key pillars of the game as it starts off small but can be expanded by spending Sparklite, the in game currency you’ll be gathering while playing.
The core gameplay loop involves venturing out into the procedually generated world of Geodia and defeating enemies, completing quests, and most importantly gathering Sparklite. Every bit of this currency you gain can then be taken back and spent on creating new shops and research labs to give you new benefits on your adventure. Now this is a roguelike so you may be worried about what happens when you die in the game. Should you die, and you most likely will a lot, you won’t lose any of the Sparklite you’ve gathered but you will lose things such as some of your consumable items. When you sustain damage out in the world sometimes it can be hard to find health in order to stay alive so even when I died I liked that I wasn’t punished by losing any of the Sparklite I had gathered on that run.
While the world is different every time you venture out there are certain biomes that are always there and always in the same place. Things like a desert, swamps, and snowy mountain area are a few of them and you steadily open up more of the world as you progress and defeat dungeons and their bosses throughout the world. The bosses in this game are giant and they each have their own pattern to figure out so that you can conquer them. Once you do you’ll gain a new ability that will open up a new area of the world for you to explore.
I must say that I quite enjoyed the loop of going out, completing quests and dungeons and gathering Sparklite to then go back and spend at the Refuge. Even if I died on my run I always felt like I was making progress as the Sparklite I gained would then go towards making my next run more successful. It’s well worth building the Refuge up too as new buildings open up new benefits for you. You’ll gain things like free consumables, new weapons, and more. Another way to improve yourself is with Patches you gain in the game. These act like skill points and can increase things like your health, attack power and more and they can be gained by completing quests, buying them, etc. Every patch you gain can then be equipped by placing it on a grid. You only have so much room on the grid so you have to think about how you want to lay them out although the space can be expanded over time. If you get two of the same patch you can even combine them to increase the potency of it. I liked the system but because you gain them randomly at times I found it difficult to upgrade certain things I was in need of. In that sense you can find yourself grinding quite a bit should you need to buff up certain stats in order to progress in the game.
The world not only has those bosses I spoke of but regular enemies as well and there is a good amount of variety in them. The combat isn’t very deep in this game and your main weapon of attack is a wrench that Ada is armed with. You gain other types of gadgets that can be used over the course of the game but I usually resorted to my trusty wrench for attacking. In terms of game length I finished it in under 9 hours but your time my vary depending on how much you have to grind or how much time you spend exploring. The world has some fun collectibles to seek out and there are side quests to go on but once I finished it I didn’t see a whole lot of reason to go back to it. One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is that this game does support local co-op play. Once you rescue Ada’s robotic friend by beating the first boss another player can take control and play as it. It’s nice that the option is there but due to the robot only being able to do certain things it may not be interesting enough for the other player to engage with it.
The visuals in Sparklite are striking and like I said they are the thing that first drew me to this game when I first saw them. The world is so colorful and well designed and I never got tired of looking at it. The game also has a wonderful soundtrack composed by Dale North that has some pretty memorable tunes that have gotten stuck in my head. He’s the same guy who did the Wizard of Legend soundtrack so if you enjoyed the music in that you’ll likely be a fan of the tunes here too. For the trophy hunters out there the game has 27 trophies including a platinum. Some of them will require you to do so much of a certain thing in a single run but a lot of the trophies are rewarded for things over all your runs. It’s a nice varied list and shouldn’t be too hard of a completion.
If you’re in the mood for a old school Zelda like game with a colorful procedually generated world then you should give Sparklite a shot. The games randomness can work against it sometimes and make it feel like a grind but I’d be lying if I said the core gameplay loop wasn’t addicting. I always felt like I was making progress even if I was dying over and over as each failed run then allowed me to go back and make myself stronger for the next attempt. Even once I finished it I was still wishing there was more to do and that should be endorsement enough.
*Sparklite is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Reviewed on a PS4 Pro. Review copy provided by the publisher for this review.