In the videogame panorama there are titles that we can define real “surprises”. Small pearls, perhaps obscured by the release of a more anticipated game, which would deserve to be discovered even by those who are not experts in a particular genre.
This is the case of Sparklite , a roguelike adventure game by Merge Games and Maple Whispering Limited, inspired by some titles in the Legend of Zelda saga (in particular “The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past”). His definition immediately indicates the kind of reference, a genre that is not always appreciated by the common opinion. And among these people I also include myself: I’m not a big roguelike fan but something, this time, made me change my mind and pushed me to give it a chance.
As mentioned before, Sparklite is a roguelike with a rather classical structure, that is, with random maps generated in a procedural way and permanent death. However, the title has small differences that make it particularly pleasant even for those who do not like the genre.
Sparklite is not only the main name of the game but also the fulcrum of all its plot. The colorful and unpredictable world of Geodia bases all its life force on Sparklite, a mineral with a cerulean color, which gives off a powerful energy capable of giving sustenance to the entire planet.
The inhabitants have learned to channel this force and use it as a sustenance and as a form of alternative energy. However, the evil Baron of Geodia plots to extract the Sparklite core and use it for his own purposes. This violent activity is causing profound pollution and a major environmental imbalance: the animals have become violent and new monsters are replacing the local fauna. Struck in his heart, the Sparklite core periodically causes very strong earthquakes that disrupt and reassemble the appearance of Geodia, slowing down Baron’s efforts. Here comes our heroine and protagonist, Ada, who has the task of stopping the work of the evil enemy before it’s too late.
The first element to dwell on is the deep attention that the developers of Red Blue Games have placed on the cohesion between plot and gameplay. The escamotage of environmental instability to justify the random structure of dungeons, is brilliant: the player finds himself in a procedural world, which is generated from time to time, but which follows an extremely coherent narrative.
You will then find yourself on a journey that is never the same and every time different. The feeling of deja-vu will be rather persistent and players less accustomed to such titles could also experience a slight frustration. However the game map and the always recognizable looking dungeons will allow you to find your way back quite easily.
- Developer: Red Blue Games
- Publisher: Merge Games, Maple Whispering Limited
- Proven version: PC
- Availability: From November 14, 2019 on PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch and Xbox One
However, what makes Sparklite a sui generis roguelike is the management of permadeath. Unlike other such titles, permanent death here is not overly punitive and will allow you to keep your character. Ada, in fact, will always remain the main protagonist of the story.
His death will cause, as in a classic roguelike, the loss of progress achieved (weapons, secondary missions, objectives, collectible objects). However, you will keep every fragment of accumulated Sparklite, a more important option than it seems, as the mineral is the main form of exchange within Geodia.
This resource is indeed fundamental in the updating of the paraphernalia and in commercial exchanges. Every time Ada dies, she will be sent to her Base, a small town suspended in the clouds, where you can upgrade your equipment and buy important items from some NPCs.
Thanks to the Sparklite, it will be possible to restore some stores, within which precious personalities will guarantee us interesting equipment and considerable equipment. Moreover, during the adventure in the world of Geodia it will be possible to meet numerous NPCs, who, once they have completed some secondary missions, will join our Base by adding new shops and interesting news. This then leads the player to look for as many characters as possible and willingly accept the subquests.
However at each death the secondary missions will be restored and the objects obtained will return to their places of origin. It will happen, for example, to get tools for some missions, but not find the character to entrust to them. Or, at the next attempt, you will immediately find the reference NPC but not the object you are looking for.
Everything in Sparklite is unpredictable and this represents its fortune and condemnation. If on the one hand this pushes the player’s inventiveness and his exploratory and analytical abilities, on the other hand this can be frustrating and disorienting to an eye that is not extremely trained.
What makes the situation less heavy is, however, rather simple and intuitive gameplay. The Ada movement, as far as the PC version is concerned, is controlled through the classic WASD system, while it is possible to shoot by pressing the space bar.
The attack is relegated to the mouse, where you can use both main keys to take advantage of your combat arsenal. But don’t be fooled by the simplicity of character management: in Sparklite the battles take place on the edge of a razor.
If the common enemies don’t seem so impossible to defeat, the bosses are definitely a separate chapter. It is here, in fact, that the real challenge is shown with enemies endowed with an arsenal that is much better equipped than the classic common monsters and a set of attacks that are not at all obvious. Even the weakest bosses will prove to be, in any case, a beautiful rock, if the protagonist will not be adequately equipped.
In classic The Legend of Zelda style, the main enemies will give you a lot of hard time and force you to show off all your skills to avoid an irreparable death. However, if the situation becomes too difficult, Ada will be able to use her trusted robotic helper, using the local cooperative mode. The two players will thus be able to join forces, not only against stubborn bosses but also to solve puzzles or overcome impassable paths.
Despite frenetic adventures and frantic combat, the graphics department holds up its workload perfectly. The animations are fluid and the game experience is extremely enjoyable. Moreover, a 16-bit graphic and a pixel art that evokes great classics, make this title a small pearl for the most nostalgic.
o top it off we find a splendid soundtrack, inspired by the classic GameCube melodies and created by composer Dale North (author of Dreamscaper, Wizard of Legend, Helvetii, The Long Return, MASS Builder, Plague Huntress and Alchemic Cutie).
Ultimately Sparklite proved to be an interesting title, with a retro flavor but at the same time with features that make it extremely modern. It is certainly not a game for everyone, just as its genre is not.
If you are passionate and roguelike lovers, you certainly can’t let it get away. If, on the other hand, you are not particularly fan of the genre, you might find some frustrating and not very immersive aspects. However, as already mentioned, Sparklite presents itself as a good compromise even for those who are novices of the genre, so much so that they still deserve a good chance.