Sparklite Review: Through Darkness Comes Light

With certain genres exploding in popularity within the past decade, it’s a wonder that they don’t get tiresome. That’s not to say some games don’t outshine others, nor are there any shortage of games that are forgotten before they ever launch with upwards of thirty games coming out each week on consoles alone (there were weeks without anything new just last generation). This is the latest entry to take on the top-down Zelda gameplay and mix it with roguelike randomization, and it does so without overstaying its welcome.

Perhaps one of the bigger draws of games with randomized levels like this is the replayability offered. There’s certainly no shortage of that in Sparklite, but there’s also a distinct familiarity to it. The game feels familiar (in a good way), and the tiles used don’t differ all that much between playthroughs. In fact, I was surprised to see pretty much everything I saw on my first playthrough in the second, but merely shuffled around. That’s not to say every playthrough will be the exact same deck of cards in a different order, as there’re plenty of tiles that are not used in each seed, but it’s not so different that you can’t learn how to best approach the game. The biggest obstacle is learning how to take on each area, as the game’s difficulty spikes with the new enemies introduced in each of its zones. Upon defeating the boss for a section, you acquire an ability that allows you to move onto the next area, but you’ll always begin in the same place and work outwards.

There are quite a few things offered making the gameplay loop more enjoyable and rewarding than some of its competitors. Having to choose your build each run based on what you need (more health, less damage, locations of certain map objectives, the entire map for a zone, etc.) and having the ability to increase it gives a feeling of progression against the increasing difficulty. Having different “shops” to upgrade for assistance with the currency is endearing, giving you goals for each run to do better the next time through. You’ll be able to find characters while exploring as well, sometimes requiring you to save them from the enemies surrounding them, while two siblings keep losing one another and need your help finding the other.

In addition to bosses, challenge dungeons, and puzzles hidden underground and on the regular map, there are shrines you’re able to access which will allow you to reverse engineer the tools you find and create at your home base. Each zone has its own tool, and these range from balloon bombs to being able to dive into whirlpools. While not necessary for most of the game, these will help with collecting patches to equip and improve your base stats for the fight ahead. Speaking of fighting, it’s overall pretty simple, with a wrench and hammer (depending on if you’re swinging or charging up) for basic damage and a roll/dash button to avoid attacks. You’re also able to use gadgets you collect, as well as the tools you can create. Gadgets include bombs, health restoration, buffs to attack and defense, and more.

While it’s unlikely you’ll be beating each boss your first time encountering them, none of them will give you a challenge once you understand their patterns. I actually debated playing through the opening tutorial again to see if it was possible to beat the first boss instead of dying, because I always appreciate when a game offers two routes like that. What I don’t like are bugs, and I was mindful to look over the list of what the launch patch included and while it fixed a lot, there are still some things I encountered that affected my experience with the game. Probably the most notable being an exceptionally loud display of sounds that had no business coming from my TV upon death. I could barely even hear the music with the volume where it was at, so I can only imagine that the speakers would’ve blown out if I had them at a volume I’d like (my daughter was sleeping). This happened on several occasions, which is a shame since I wanted to enjoy Dale North’s lovely score but I was gun-shy with the unintended audio jump scares. I also ran into some inconsistent rules of enemy map traversal, and found myself getting enemies stuck in transition screens or dealing damage before I had a chance to react upon entering a new room. And yet, I kept coming back and telling myself “just one more run.”

If you’re looking for a rogue-lite adventure that’s as addictive as it is fun, chances are you’ll enjoy Sparklite. While not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, it’s a wonderful change of pace for Red Blue Games, and a good sign of where they can go from here.

8 out of 10

Pros

  • Addictive Gameplay Loop
  • Optional/Secret Room Tiles
  • Respects Players’ Time

Cons

  • Audio Glitches
  • Enemy Rules/Physics
  • Some Room Transitions

Sparklite was developed by Red Blue Games and published by Merge Games. It is available on NS, PC, PS4, and X1. The game was provided to us for review on PS4. If you’d like to see more of Sparklite, check out the developer’s site.

 

Here at GBG we use a rating method that you are more than likely familiar with – a scale of 1 to 10. For clarification, we intend on using the entire scale: 1-4 is something you should probably avoid paying for; 5-7 is something that is worth playing, but probably not at full price; 8-10 is a great title that you can feel confident about buying. If you have any questions or comments about how we rate a game, please let us know.

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