Sparklite developed by Red Blue Games and published by Merge Games is a love letter to the retro. Essentially Zelda with a procedurally generated world, Sparklite – while short and rather easy – is a nostalgic mix of exploration and action.
The story begins when Ada, stranded on a crashing ship with her trusty robot Wingnut, fails to fix her engine and lands in nearby Geodia. Unfortunately for her, Geodia is rife with monsters and Titans, as a mysterious enigma named simply the Baron fights the inhabitants to harness their sparklite for power.
Sparklite is a catch all in Geodia; not only does it serve as the nation’s only form of currency, it is also harnessed to keep afloat a city known as The Refuge, where Geodia’s inhabitants have migrated to in search of safety. Baron, angry at Geodia’s use of sparklite and determined to harness all sparklite in Geodia for himself, has sent four of his titans – one in each of Geodia’s distinct regions – to stop any who try to reclaim the land.
Ada, our unwitting and silent protagonist, journeys forth to seek adventure. Once in Geodia, she quickly realizes that a family heirloom she holds -a small locket – is the key to defeating the Baron. The locket allows her to open founder’s vaults scattered throughout each region, each hiding a powerful weapon. Once inside the vault Ada gets a quick tutorial on how to use her newly acquired weapon before it is quickly taken from her. No worries though, as Ada can reverse engineer the item before leaving the confines of the vault, creating a blueprint from which she can later build the item to permanently add to her inventory.
Equipped with a wrench, Ada sets out with Widget to take down each Titan before finally confronting The Baron. Ada can swing her wrench, launch a powerful overhead slam, use her rocket boots to cross short distances, use secondary weapons including a crossbow, and use Widget to dig up items hidden in the ground, vacuum up mud, or light up dark areas.
Ada will explore the four distinct regions in succession, as each new region can only be reached after defeating a Titan and equipping your Widget with a newly acquired tool. From acid bogs to snowy hillsides, each area is varied and contains creative enemies and multiple hidden rooms.
While exploring Geodia, you will come across founder’s vaults, furnace challenge rooms, a pirate ship which hosts a game show, and multiple boss arenas. While you can certainly head straight for the boss arena in each area, that would serve only as a detriment to your playthrough. Sparklite rewards grinding and expects it from the player. Ada begins with little health or strength and the only way to change that is to grind, find items, and horde sparklite.
There is no penalty for death in Sparklite, so you are urged to explore, grind, die, and repeat. Every time you die you will wake up on The Refuge, where you can upgrade your health, strength, and widget with any sparklite you’ve accumulated during your run through.
The various characters you encounter and ultimately save in Geodia will also spawn in The Refuge, where you can help them open up shops. These shops are invaluable, as each offers items which will help you on your journey. The workshop allows you to create the items you find in the Founder’s Vaults, while the widget shop will give you your choice of widgets to begin each trek to Geodia with, so you don’t have to start each run-through empty handed.
Scattered throughout the landscape are chests and various other ways to obtain loot and patches, which serve as upgrades. You begin with a small patch hub, which you can affix your patches to, but will quickly fill up so – at least at first – you have to pick and choose what upgrades will aide you the most. Thankfully early on you can upgrade this pouch to hold far more items and begin combining patches – for the right price – so they will become more powerful and take up less space. The more you grind, the more sparklite you’ll have, and the quicker you’ll be able to purchase upgrades.
Being a fan of Dark Souls and other games where grinding to upgrade is a must, I took it a bit overboard with Sparklite. By the end of the game my character was so powerful I was able to essentially walk up, slap the boss a few times, and walk away relatively unharmed. While this was slightly disappointing, it was also my fault for refusing to proceed with the story and instead re-running areas multiple times for better patches and more sparklite. I’m not sure if Sparklite intended you to be all powerful by the end, but it was nice to be able to cross the various terrains and no longer worry about the enemies being a challenge.
Unfortunately, even without the grinding, Sparklite is short. There are five main areas, each with a boss, but once you are powered up and understand each enemy’s attacks they are all a breeze to run through. At most I’d say the game takes 8 to 10 hours, although it is possible to get more out of it if you focus on grinding to find all upgrades before completion.
Despite its short length, there is something that helps Sparklite stand out and increases playtime: the world is procedurally generated every time you die, so no two playthroughs will be the same. Sure, the basic world remains the same, but the layout constantly varies and throws different assortments of enemies and hidden areas at you. It is a small, but pleasant addition, to prevent the game from growing stale too quickly.
There is also the option to play through the game co-op, which lends a few extra hours of excitement.
I greatly enjoyed my time with Sparklite, as it reminded me of my days as a youth playing Zelda and simply forgetting about the outside world. While I was sad that I completed the game so quickly and about the relative lack of challenge, I still had a great time with my 8 or so hours in Geodia and found myself running back through areas even after the final boss to see if I could find any more hidden areas or collectibles.
Sparklite is available now on the Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Windows for an MSRP of $24.99 digitally. A review code of Sparklite was given to Fan Fest News by Red Blue Games / Merge Games for the purpose of this review.