Arts video game review

Whack, dash, die, upgrade, repeat

‘Sparklite’ is a cute addition to the roguelike genre

9266 sparklite   liane xu
The finding and collecting of musical Beats is an endearing side quest in 'Sparklite.'

Developed by Red Blue Games
Published by Merge Games
Available on Nintendo Switch, PS4, Windows, and Xbox One

Inspired by the Legend of Zelda franchise, Sparklite is an adorable and fun addition to the roguelike genre. The developers had the idea of framing it as an “approachable roguelike,” taking inspiration from Rogue Legacy in the game’s mechanics and fitting the game onto an adventure story-based premise.

You start the game on an airship manned by our protagonist, Ada, and her small mechanical friend. A freak storm soon sends the duo crash-landing down to the world of Geodia, where we delve into the chaos caused by the evil Baron, your typical greedy, power-hungry villain. The Baron seeks the powerful hunk of sparklite residing at the core of the world, and his scramble to become the most powerful being in Geodia is causing the world to shake and shift in unexpected ways.

This is how the developers explain the procedural generation of the map every time Ada is “resurrected,” a mechanic that is also cleverly explained by the medical bay in the floating refuge above Geodia. If the doctor notices Ada is in trouble, she’ll send a metal claw down to scoop Ada up from safety and let her rest until she is well again. 

Overall, the game fits the nostalgia-inducing retro aesthetic, with its cute pixel art and catchy, GameCube-inspired soundtrack. The game is easy to get into, and the tutorials don’t make you feel like the developers are trying to hold your hand as you get started.

However, there are a few downsides. Once you really get into the grind, the game can start to feel repetitive. Before each new run, you can upgrade Ada’s gadgets as well as the shops available on the floating refuge, but upgrades require collecting sparklite, and each subsequent upgrade will inevitably be more expensive than the last. 

The bosses in each distinct area of the map were also not nearly as challenging as I thought they’d be. Your initial introduction to the world’s bosses makes them out to be intimidating and difficult enemies to face, but that turned out to not really be the case at all. As usual, the bosses follow a predictable pattern, but for some, there are blindspots that can easily be exploited, making the fight trivial — and if your play style is anything like mine and you invest early on in making a super robust character, tanking the bosses also becomes a trivial matter.

In playing this game, I couldn’t help but think of Moonlighter, another roguelike game released around this time last year. Both have a similar aesthetic and similar game mechanics, and both are addicting and fun, but if I had to pick between the two, I’d say Moonlighter would win out in the comparison.