After crash landing and being rescued from the baron’s goons, Aya goes on a prophesied adventure as the descendant of a saviour to save the planet from destruction and evil in a top-down action adventure Sparklite.
Immediately drawing parallels to gaming classic The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Sparklite wears its inspirations proudly, from the gadget and gizmo mechanics through to the pixelated 16-bit bird’s eye perspective but adds its own flair with a selection of roguelike elements such as randomly generated map and enemy placement as well as run-specific upgrades and collectables.
Unlike most roguelike games, however, Sparklite has an emphasis on player progression without beating you into submission with a consistently high difficulty level. Players collect Sparklite, the games equivalent of a currency/crafting material and upon which the game draws its moniker, most of this doesn’t become apparent until much later in the game but Sparklite holds vast amounts of energy and could be used to usher in a golden age or the next dark age dependant on who is victorious in the story. It’s also the only element which persists to your next run, getting knocked out relieves the player of their currently held gizmos but you get to keep your cash for upgrades.
After getting thrashed by the first of the Baron’s henchmen you come across, the player is rescued to the mythical sky city where The Resistance is based. This area serves as your hub from which you can travel back to the ground for more scavenging or story progression or spend your hard-earned Sparklite to upgrade both your character and the city in a number of ways.
The Med Bay – where you initially wake — introduces you to patches, these are applied to a fixed-sized (initially) grid which once affixed bestow an upgrade to the player. This could be more health, added damage for gizmos, increased damage reduction or other useful items for exploring the world below the clouds. As you progress you increase the size of the patch grid allowing more patches to be installed as well as the ability to upgrade patches by merging them with other similarly levelled patches.
Spending further Sparklite on the city opens up other areas bestowing a number of usable items (Gizmos) for starting your run rather than starting with an empty satchel or a workshop where you can build and upgrade your weapons and gadgets. There are also a number of NPCs offering collection quests to assist in your accumulation of resources and patches.
On the ground, each area is filled with a number of single instance screens generated as you land. Enemies are randomly placed as are most obstacles although some fixed instances exist such as level boundaries which need certain abilities or powers to allow you to progress. Each biome also houses a number of gremlin factories which are like mini-dungeons bestowing treasure in the form of Sparklite or Patches on completion as well as an ancient shrine which serves as a trial in using a new weapon or gadget.
Players have access to a three-hit wrench combo as well as a charged hammer blow which is powerful but slow to come out so some careful timing is needed. It tends to be more useful for puzzles than combat in practice, however. Enemies and some objects drop gizmos which can range from a proximity mine, a rocket launcher or a health boost. In roguelike fashion, these are random generations and as such, there is an element of luck in most of your early runs until you upgrade your patches.
Completing the aforementioned trial offers you the blueprint for the weapon to allow you to construct it back in your base of operations in the sky. Whereas other games of this ilk made progression in later levels a complex set of interactions with unlocked gadgets, Sparklite unfortunately only uses a few of the gadgets once or twice and then others not at all which makes collection and upgrading of them seem a pointless affair and a missed chance to elevate the game amongst its alternatives.
Each area also houses a boss dungeon limiting progression to the next area. The Barons Henchmen are all blessed with massive mining vehicles which double as death machines so some practice is needed to avoid their attacks and finish them off. Most patterns are fairly simple however and with enough damage reduction and a few health gizmos, they go down fairly quickly.
Sparklite has a great premise, some great pixel graphics and a soundtrack that didn’t make me want to throw the controller at the TV after the 10th run but it ultimately doesn’t take all the ingredients it has on offer to make an astounding masterpiece. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an enjoyable affair for a younger audience but hopefully, the developers will take any follow up to the next level with more intricate dungeon puzzle design which relies on the interesting gadgets it provides rather than making most of the game a one-button wrench affair.