Sparklite Review: A Charming Adventure That Makes Up for a Lack of Depth with Pure Heart

by David Sanchez November 14, 2019 @ 9:58 am

Reviewed on PlayStation 4

One look at Sparklite from Red Blue Games, and it’s easy to instantly fall for its charm. Don’t let the beautiful pixel art and cute characters fool you, though. Sparklite is a tough little action-adventure game that wears its retro inspiration on its sleeve. It’s a lot of fun, and though the game’s pieces don’t always fit together in the best way possible, there’s still a lot to be said about its addictive gameplay loop.

Shifting Lands

Sparklite follows Ada as she wanders the land of Geodia in search of the Baron, a villainous jerk who’s out to mine the world’s life force. This life force, the titular Sparklite, is what keeps the world together, so by messing with it, the Baron is causing major environmental problems. Truthfully, the story and characters aren’t as fully realized as they could’ve been, and I found myself caring less and less about the plot the further I got into the adventure.

Thankfully, that adventure is solid, and there’s so much to love about the systems in place here. Though Sparklite is influenced by The Legend of Zelda, it never feels derivative of the Nintendo series. Its hack-and-slash gameplay is pretty simple, but there’s a cool focus on world exploration that acts as a driving force and keeps things highly entertaining.

Exploring the map is the best part of Sparklite. It’s just fun wandering the procedurally generated world and discovering health and weapon upgrades along the way. There’s a certain order in which you’ll need to tackle the game’s multiple areas, and you can only access newer areas if you have the proper abilities.

Where Sparklite really took off for me, though, was in the mid game. Some of the best moments were when I would revisit locations I’d already cleared with abilities I gained later in the game. I came across caves that I either couldn’t previously access or didn’t have the tools to get through. Spoils usually came in the form of a health or Sparklite meter increase, which would in turn give me a better fighting chance in those tougher late game zones, or a new ability for Ada’s robotic companion.

If Ada’s health meter is depleted in battle, she’ll be returned to the hub area. On the one hand, you’ll lose any special items and temporary buffs you found along the way, but you’ll keep any Sparklite, which acts as the game’s currency, and you won’t lose your actual character progress. So if you’ve been working on increasing Ada’s health, that meter won’t deplete.

You also won’t lose any progress if you die, so any bosses you’ve defeated up to that point will remain defeated. Sparklite features an interesting take on the roguelite formula — the game never punishes you too strictly, and it encourages you to jump back into its colorful world to seek out more spoils.

When you return to the map, you’ll find that it’s shifted, giving you a new procedurally crafted world to explore. For the most part, the map doesn’t feel generic, and the basic layout is usually pretty solid. There are times where you’ll come across empty areas, or rooms if you’re in a cave or dungeon. Speaking of which, Sparklite is not a dungeon-based puzzler like Zelda — the game focuses more on overworld exploration, with smaller, bite-sized dungeons included for you to discover and find hidden items within.

Big Bosses

The bosses of Sparklite are real highlights. These monsters take up about half the screen and offer a real challenge. Figuring out how to defeat these massive foes is like a puzzle itself, and it’s super rewarding besting these enemies.

The only boss I had a problem with was the final boss. This encounter was rough, and at times it felt a unfair, with the final stage of the Baron’s second form feeling especially broken. This prompted me to return to the world and do a bit of grinding for Sparklite so that I could then purchase more upgrades and finally defeat the Baron. I typically enjoy the grind in games, and in Sparklite that element is certainly a lot of fun, but grinding for a couple hours specifically to take down the last boss was a bit of slog.

Take a Trip to Geodia

For a land that’s experiencing some serious seismic activity, Geodia certainly is pretty. The colorful pixel art is gorgeous, with every zone featuring a unique look. The sound design is decent, and the soundtrack is cheery, but there weren’t really any themes that stood out.

My time with Sparklite was mostly pleasant. I enjoyed a lot of what the game had to offer during my 10 hours in Geodia. The roguelite loop works well and will keep you entertained. The focus on overworld adventuring is a nice change of pace for this type of game, and the fact that you don’t lose story or character progress when Ada dies makes this one of the more encouraging, easier to pick up and play roguelite games out there.

That said, sometimes the procedurally generated world will drop you into empty rooms. In addition, though the combat works fine, you hardly ever have to use your cooler abilities. And though the boss battles are a lot of fun, the final encounter is pretty bad.

If you’re looking for an inviting retro-styled adventure, you’ll find a lot to love about Sparklite. It’s not the most inventive game, and it could’ve expanded on a few of its systems, but there’s still plenty fun to be had exploring the ever-changing world.

Score: 7 out of 10

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