By Michael Fontanini / February 12th, 2020
|Developer||Red Blue Games|
|Publisher||Merge Games, Maple Whispering Limited|
|Release Date||Nov 14th, 2019|
|Genre||Action, Adventure, Indie, RPG|
|Platform||PC (Steam), Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4|
Sparklite ore is the life force of Geodia, but this world is now torn apart. A greedy Baron has set up a sparklite ore mining operation in each of the five biomes on the surface to fuel his war machines. However, the pollution from his mining operations has twisted the local wildlife into hostile monsters. The locals that live here had also been using sparklite ore as a power source, but they did so safely. They use it as a low-level but rechargeable power source. The baron, however, has great ambitions of power. So his titans are mining large quantities of the blue ore. In Sparklite, Ada, a young mechanic, must use the sparklite ore she collects along the way to create new gadgets to help her overcome obstacles or interact with certain devices (for example to open gates to new biomes). She also has a flying robot sidekick, Wingnut, who can gain a few abilities. Can Ada become powerful enough to defeat the greedy baron who is devastating the world?
Geodia has a built-in defense against the kind of abuse wrought by the baron. The world’s core causes the surface to become completely rearranged from time to time, which is known as a fracture. In the game, this happens whenever Ada dies and thus returns to the refuge in the sky. The refuge is a small floating town in Sparklite where Ada can regroup before she makes another run on the surface. The surface world is divided into a handful of different biomes, and is randomly generated each time you land there. Sparklite is inspired by games like The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past and Rogue Legacy. The world is one continuous map (there are only loading screens when you move from one biome to another).
Ada can also return to the refuge at will from the pause menu. For example, this is useful if she realizes she has enough sparklite ore to pay for an upgrade now. If you do this, the level will be regenerated from scratch when you return. However, if you beat the boss of a biome, you can return to the surface and it will be the same world as before. The map screen will also remember how much you uncovered in this case. The world being regenerated each time you die adds a rogue-like aspect to Sparklite. Ada can collect sparklite ore by killing enemies, opening small chests, or hitting large plants to knock down pods that can drop the ore and one-use items. She can also take remote control of Wingnut, and use her flying sidekick to excavate small cracks in the ground or small dark circles in water to unearth the ore and items as well.
As Ada travels through the world of Sparklite, she’ll find small chests containing some sparklite ore and/or items. These are items that have one-use effects. For example, blow stuff up, light up a dark cave temporarily, heal yourself, and more. Large chests usually contain badges, which you can equip at the medical bay in the refuge. Badges can be fused together to create better silver and gold versions that give you a bigger upgrade. You can expand the size of your badge screen by upgrading it so you can equip more badges as well. Green badges are special ones that can’t be fused, as there is generally only one of each of these. They give you special buffs like faster hammer attack charge time, or allowing your sidekick, Wingnut, to pick up sparklite ore from the ground.
Most of the gameplay consists of exploring the randomly generated surface world to collect sparklite ore and badges in order to become more powerful. Sparklite ore is mainly used as currency in the refuge, but there is also a guy on the surface named Monty that you may run into in your travels. He resides inside a pirate ship on the ground, and has a mini game called Monty’s Haul. It costs 10 sparklite ore to play, and he’ll have three chests laid out on the floor. You just pick one. He’ll then remove one of the wrong answers and let you pick again. If you win, you get two Monty Coins, which just add to your sparklite ore counter. You’ll also encounter furnaces, which are mini-dungeons that consist of a handful of short floors. At the end is a large chest to open. You’ll also find one mine in each biome, which is where a titan mining robot can be found (the boss battle for the biome).
Each biome also has a special landmark, called a founder shrine. These were created by the founders of the world. Within it you will find a special device and learn to use it. Ada will then create a blueprint based on it. You must put the device on a pedestal at the end in order to leave. To unlock the device for use, you must research it at the workshop in the refuge to craft one for yourself. The inventory screen shows which gadgets you’ve gotten. Some of them are projectile weapons, while others give you new abilities like being able to swim in deep water. The middle section shows the upgrades you’ve unlocked for your sidekick, Wingnut. The supply bag section on the right shows one-use items you’ve found in your current run. If you die, you lose all of these. These are just minor items that help you during an adventure. For example, in the image below we see that Ada has 36 of the explosives that will blow up the tiles immediately around her. This can destroy rocks for example, which may reveal hidden caves, some sparklite ore, etc.
The gameplay is simple overall, but there are also a few side quests you can do. One is to collect all of the beats. These are little colored birds. There are 5 in the refuge and 10 in each biome. Once found, they go to the conductor in the refuge to form a musical group. You should talk to him from time to time as you find more of the beats, because he will reward you with badges as you progress in this side quest. He’ll also let you listen to their song, and it will get better as you get more beats and eventually get one more final reward for getting them all. You’ll also meet a pair of twins. This boy and girl pair like to go exploring on the surface. When you find one, they give you a medallion. They always manage to get separated, though. So you must find the other twin and show them the medallion so they know that the first twin is safe. They will reward you with a badge each time. You’ll meet a few other characters in your adventures, too.
The art style is a retro, pixelart one using hand-drawn sprites bursting with vibrant colors. The animations are simple, but well done. In Sparklite, the characters are brought to life using a little to convey a lot (simple animations and sounds). This is very reminiscent of characters in the Zelda series. Sparklite also features a nice retro soundtrack that fits the game well. The music too is very well done.
Sparklite gives you a lot of room to customize your character as you acquire more badges. The limited space for equipping badges means you can’t have everything. You can be a high-powered killing machine, or a high defense damage sponge. You can sacrifice some slots for other special badges to upgrade your hammer attack a bit, or give yourself buffs like being able to collect sparklite energy from small destructible objects. Normally you obtain this by killing enemies (it’s the green meter in the screenshots). This sparklite energy is used to power your gadgets. So if you’re out, you can’t use them until you get some more energy. Most of your badge space will probably be used for health, energy, and damage badges to upgrade your health/energy meters and allow you to kill things in less hits. You’ll start to live a lot longer on each run as you become more powerful. You’ll want to be well prepared before you take on the baron, though. His second form will likely toast you toward the end if you are underpowered!
Sparklite is a fun little game lifting inspiration from games like The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past and Rogue Legacy. It’s not a particularly hard game unless you’re not strong enough for something just yet. After a while, you’ll have seen most of the screens the game can generate in the world, and then the world will start to become a bit less interesting and repetitive. I’ve had a fun time with Sparklite anyway, though. It is an interesting spin on Zelda-esque gameplay. I say Zelda-eque, because this is not really a Zelda clone. It just borrows a few core design ideas from that series rather than trying to be that series. It basically melds some bits of the classic Zelda formula with a bit of rogue-like and other elements. I’ve spent nearly 20 hours in Geodia at this point, and have mostly completed the game (minus a few side quest things and achievements). Sparklite is available on Steam for $24.99, or you can get the Deluxe Edition for a little more if you want the soundtrack and digital art book. You can also get Sparklite on Switch, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. This review is based on the PC version. Can you overcome the obstacles ahead and save Geodia from the greedy baron?
Review copy provided by publisher.
Legend of ZeldaLegend of Zelda: Link to the PastMaple Whispering LimitedMerge GamesRed Blue gamesRogue LegacySparklite