Sparklite is the first full release video game from Red Blue Games, a small development studio that clearly has a passion for 16-bit titles. With plenty of colourful indie titles with the same visual style already for sale, does Sparklite do enough different to stand out from the pack?
Sparklite is a rogue-lite action-adventure game that puts you into the shoes of Ada, as her airship crash lands on the gorgeous, yet troubled land of Geodia. It is easy to see what titles released throughout the 90’s provided inspiration to the team, namely The Legend of Zelda, but for a more recent comparison, I would say it has more in common with another fantastic title, Moonlighter.
The core gameplay loop is simple, yet highly addictive and mainly consists of you exploring the different regions of Geodia to gather Sparklite (the in-game currency used for purchasing upgrades) in a quest to defeat the evil Barron and put an end to his evil reign.
You start off your journey in Geodia and are introduced to the general controls of the game, before encountering one of the many bosses of the game named Foremen who works for the evil Barron.
After this short sequence, you are transported to The Refuge, a floating structure in the sky that basically acts as your home base. It is here where you will be able to spend the Sparklite you gather on your adventure to purchase upgrades, advance the various structures that provide other benefits and items for you, along with being the place you respawn upon death.
Speaking of falling in battle, this is something you will encounter a lot, as each time you die you are stripped of the items you have collected, whilst retaining any Sparklite you have gathered and are returned to The Refuge. This is where the rogue-lite elements come into play as each time you die and travel back down to Geodia the map shifts around and switches up the structures and boss locations in different areas.
“The fact that this shifting landscape mechanic is also explained within the game world as being caused by the Barron is a nice touch”
This proved to be annoying at first for me, but I quickly grew to love the mechanic. The fact that this shifting landscape mechanic is also explained within the game world as being caused by the Barron is a nice touch too as the world shifts due to ‘fractures’ which alters the landscape for all the inhabitants.
The controls are tight and the gameplay is outstanding, I never found myself getting bored or frustrated, and was always eager to return to Geodia and gather more Sparklite and defeat the countless enemies populating the areas.
You have a range of weapons and items at your disposal, and as mentioned earlier this channels the gameplay and feel of early Zelda titles. You have your basic attack and dodge available from the outset, but you are also able to gather ‘widgets’ during your adventure, with these providing many benefits from restoring health and energy, to providing light in dark environments, through to buffing your strength or defence for a short amount of time.
There are also ‘Founders vaults’ located around the map that provide you with schematics to build other sub-weapons such as a crossbow and even a remote control blimp that can be controlled and detonated remotely. These vaults act as an introduction and tutorial on the associated gadget before providing you with the related schematic, which must then be taken back to the Refuge to be constructed for use in Geodia.
No action-RPG would be complete without some form of a levelling up system, and Sparklite provides a unique take on this. You start off with 9 slots that you can assign various ‘Patches’ to, which range from increasing weapon damage and adding more life hearts or energy, to showing points of interest on your map at all times. This mechanic can be upgraded to allow for further slots, but it was a nice touch that I had to think about which upgrades I wanted to have for my playthrough. Did I want to focus on having more life and higher damage, or did I want to enable better map visibility and make it easier to find founders vaults and important locations? Perhaps a mixture of all of these? There was always a nice balance to this that I loved and kept the gameplay progression moving forward.
The characters all have a certain charm to them, and I loved interacting with the range of people that reside within Geodia and The Refuge. One of my personal favourites is Monty, a pirate that lives within a wrecked ship. Finding Monty on the map was always an exciting experience for me as for a small fee he provides you with a chance to open 1 of 3 chests in the hopes of being rewarded with a larger amount of Sparklite.