Sparklite PC Review

Sparklite has all the ingredients required for a great game but fails to brew them into something memorable.

By Woozie, Posted 14 Nov 2019

Sparklite is an action/adventure title with rogue-lite elements that, for better or worse, plays quite familiarly. After a brief introductory sequence, in which you hit things with your wrench, getting used to protagonist Ada’s attacks and ability to dodge, you reach the Refuge, the game’s hub area. There, Ada has access to a handful of buildings that let her improve her capabilities before heading out into the wild. One machine lets you combine patches to increase stats like health, energy and damage dealt; the workshop lets you forge new gadgets, while another building gives you free consumable items that come in handy when dealing with monsters. But to purchase goods, upgrade them and grow stronger, each building requires increasing amounts of sparklite – the game’s eponymous resource – obtainable by heading out and exploring Geodia. But you’re not the only one to cover the precious resource, as an evil Baron seeks to exploit it for his own use.

Sparklite’s ever-shifting world is a treat for the eyes, but only for only a short while from seeing its different biomes, interiors and caves for the first time. As you begin repeating runs to obtain small quantities of the resource, you’ll start bumping into the same few assets and area layouts that don’t do enough to make each biome feel varied or alive. On top of that, you’ll mostly be stuck exploring the same biome until you get rid of its boss, which usually involves a good few runs’ worth of getting enough sparklite for at least a few upgrades. The amount obtained from each monster you defeat is minuscule, which means you’ll be trudging to defeat as many monsters as you can, even in biomes that you’ve completed. Not only does this slow the pace of the game and somewhat detracts from the feeling of progress, but it’s also not helped by the unwieldy, frustrating combat that the title boasts.

Sparklite, PC, Review, Screenshot

By default, Ada has access to a short-range swipe using her wrench and a charged, heavy hammer attack, both striking in the direction your mouse is pointed. Through blueprints found in specific spots, she unlocks gadgets like a crossbow or an explosive zeppelin that provide extra combat solutions at the cost of energy, a resource replenished by killing foes. The aforementioned consumable items are the third type of tools Ada can employ, granting a variety of effects, from clusters of explosive projectiles to mines or even refilling health. But while there’s a decent amount of variety in both toolset and enemies you get to encounter across the game’s biomes, Sparklite’s combat has a very start-stop nature that lacks any sense of flow.

Attacking feels unnecessarily sticky, requiring that you also commit for a few seconds to a dash in the attack’s direction. This locks you into a short animation, which can both leave you vulnerable when multiple enemies are around but, more frustratingly, send you flying straight into an enemy. Your other option is Ada’s heavy attack which unleashes a hammer slam with a short area of effect after a period of charging. While this can prove quite devastating to regular enemies, it also leaves you vulnerable for longer than you’d want to be. Throughout Sparklite, you’ll repeat the same few moves that never feel quite right over and over again. Enemies do clearly telegraph their intention to attack but this only translates to tedious one-on-one fights, where you wait for an opponent to charge you or strike, after which you take your turn attacking it. It’s a system that not only contrasts the ease with which Ada moves and dodges, but never quite manages to find a pace for itself.

Sparklite, PC, Review, Screenshot

Unlocking new tools in Sparklite rarely feels like you’re actually becoming more capable or powerful. I spent a good chunk of resources on building a gadget that let me shrink to navigate through pipes. Not only did I rarely encounter them, but the rewards waiting at the other end were, for the most part, underwhelming. The explosive zeppelin I mentioned earlier is fairly powerful but requires dealing with awful controls on top of eating all of Ada’s energy. Improving your health and damage via patches are the only two things where you feel a tangible change, but when combat is as tedious and frustrating as it is, these improvements only help with coping.

Sparklite’s procedural generation also fails to give a sense of a constantly refreshed world every time you return after being knocked unconscious; and that tends to happen a lot, even with the game’s relatively short length. Although they don’t have the same layouts, biomes feel very similar, each playing host to a small number of enemy types. Occasionally, you’ll bump into a hole in the ground that may house a simple puzzle, a chest with goodies, or someone hosting a game of luck in which you have to guess which of three boxes holds treasure. While these encounters definitely help with adding variety to Sparklite’s world, they’re too rare to make a lasting impression.

Sparklite, PC, Review, Screenshot

The NPCs you encounter out there in your travels, their quests and the general story don’t fare much better either. While Sparklite does try to lean into an environmentally-focused narrative, by the time it ends, you’ll only have encountered a handful of forgettable characters. This extends to your robot companion who fails to stand out in any way, including gameplay-wise. Acting as a means of pulling things from the ground and a source of light, it’s also the only option that a co-op partner has, should they choose to join you. Needless to say, the role simply feels a bit too support-based for its own good.

Before any significant progress is made, Sparklite has you farming its titular resource while dying to the same few enemies over and over in what eventually becomes a gameplay loop that breeds frustration. Sparklite’s two redeeming qualities are its bosses and soundtrack. The songs harken back to retro titles built in a similar vein, offering a good dose of auditory nostalgia while keeping things appropriately fresh. The bosses pose a good amount of challenge and, while fighting them is a chore because of how combat works, their noteworthy design does set them apart from the other nasties you get to whack using your wrench.

Sparklite, PC, Review, Screenshot

On paper, Sparklite has all the ingredients for a modern title that looks towards the games of yore for inspiration. The hub world with several shops, a simple attack system complemented by extra gadgets and a procedurally generated world that constantly refreshes the experience – it’s all there. But just like the concept itself isn’t necessarily unique, the execution stumbles too much for its own good, the pieces failing to fit together into a cohesive whole. Sparklite fails to squeeze value out of the systems that could make it a good game, resulting in an experience that struggles to keep you invested the further you push.

Bogdan Robert,
Senior Editor, NoobFeed
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General Information

Sparklite

55/100

Platform(s): PS4, Switch, PC
Publisher(s): Merge Games
Developer(s): Red Blue Games
Genres: Adventure, Rogue-lite
Themes: Pixel Art, Indie
Release Date: 2019

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