There are so many rougelite and rougelike games out there, it can almost seem like an insurmountable task to wade through that genre’s sea of games looking for the shore that you want to land on. Sparklite from Red Blue Games might just be one of those beaches you want to wash up on. With crispy pixel art and smooth gameplay, this contained adventure will keep you hooked with its satisfying game loop and a pleasing aesthetic fueled by nostalgia.
In Sparklite, you embark on an adventure as stalwart mechanic, Ada, in her quest to save Geodia from the Baron who is hoping to harness the power of Sparklite by mining the core of Geodia to power his war machines and rule with an iron fist. To stop the Baron, you’ll need to seek the four Titans spread across the five different areas of the map. In your quest to stop the Baron, you’ll come across different colorful characters that can aid you on your journey in different ways once you help them get back to the flying city above that serves as your hub world. The story presents itself in a rather straightforward and digestible manner, setting up some early exposition as you uncover more of the lore at the end of each boss fight with the Baron’s Titans.
The story is nothing too generic, nor is it anything that’ll cause your brain to do backflips, but that’s not why you should look to get your digits on Sparklite— the gameplay loop is the star of the show. Similar to other roguelite games in the genre, on the chance that you fall to your foes– which you will, many, many times– you’ll lose certain aspects of your progress.
In Sparklite, part of your journey is collecting Sparklite through defeated enemies, chests, and hidden in other parts of the world. The Sparklite that you collect can be used to upgrade your hub world, upgrade your own attributes via patches, and when you perish you don’t lose any of the Sparklite nor the progression on your home base and personal stats. The patches, gadgets, and widgets that you uncover are permanent upgrades for Ada and her little robot companion, Wingnut, that you’ll retain. The only items that get lost in defeat are equippable items that get stored in your supply bag that are usually weapons with finite ammunition or temporary boosts to speed or health. Though at times this can still be a depressing aspect, it’s normal in roguelite games to expect some sort of progression loss. I think Sparklite is on the lighter side, compared to other rougelites that result in frustrating new beginnings when your health depletes.
Aside from losing your temporary items, the world of Geodia also undergoes fractures, explained in the game as the Titans mining, that causes the world to shift around. What this means for you is that when you are defeated you are sent back to the hub world and when you re-enter Geodia, the layout of the world will be different with the only thing staying constant is that the other zones outside of the Vinelands– where you always begin– are usually on the same direction of the map.
So this loop of farming for Sparklite and working your way through the four Titans, while uncovering new widgets, gadgets, and patches is a satisfying carousel of incremental progression. The only times I ever felt at odds with myself when being defeated was usually during a Titan fight. Otherwise, there was usually a sense of invigoration in death, since I’d be able to spend Sparklite on upgrades and re-enter the Vinelands with a fresh bar of health and a reworked patchboard.
The gameplay in Sparklite always felt tight and balanced while swinging away at enemies and dashing across gaps. Quick slashes, charged swings, and the ability to dash to dodge enemy attacks and traverse the landscape are the core combat elements that always felt accurate and responsive. This is an important aspect to nail in any game, but especially one that can be punishing at times with certain enemy encounters. Besides being skilled, patience and knowledge are pillars of success in Sparklite. Over extending can leave you wide open for devastating blows and learning your enemies attack patterns is paramount to surviving.
For the most part, I felt as though Sparklite was an overall steady uphill climb in difficulty with only a few difficulty spikes along the way. I struggled with the second Titan and the final encounter with the Baron. Both of those two boss fights felt like there was a spike in difficulty even when I farmed up better patches and a full supply bag.
Aside from that, there were times I felt like the game introduced interesting mechanics with upgrades to Wingnut that never fully felt utilized. Throughout your journey, you’ll come across secret areas that if you complete the trial within, you’ll gain an upgrade to the tasks Wingnut can perform. For instance, you’ll gain a vacuum-like upgrade which will allow Wingnut to suck up mud to uncover switches or farm more Sparklite or items, and it peaked with farming for items. I would’ve loved to see Wingnut or the other widgets that unlock be used to solve more complex puzzles later in the game.
All in all, Sparklite stands out as one of the better adventures in the genre, serving as more of an entry level rougelite with a less diabolical gameplay and progression loop than some of its contemporaries. Aside from yearning for certain depth to puzzles and a few difficulty spikes, Sparklite remained a solid adventure throughout and kept me satiated until the credits rolled.
Sparklite is available now on PS4, Switch, Xbox One, PC, & Mac for $24.99.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch by a review code provided by the publisher.
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