Sparklite offers delicious, pixel-generated, rogue-lite gameplay that channels the essence of The Legend of Zelda franchise but differentiates itself with unique quirks and nuances creating a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Players will need to navigate this ever-changing land while upgrading abilities to take down Mining Titans, hell-bent on destroying the world. Sparklite is a non-stop exciting adventure full of challenge and variety and a sparkling rogue-lite gem.
In Sparklite, players take on the role of Ada, a young woman whose airship has been destroyed over the lands of Geodia where an evil overlord—the Baron—is corrupting the land, forcing the inhabitants to seek refuge in a cloud-city suspended by balloons in the sky. The journey begins when Ada’s airship becomes damaged beyond repair, and she is forced to crash land in the Vinelands. However, as the player progresses, they will encounter far more hazardous areas such as the Acid Bog and a dangerous desert. Venturing through each area allows players to pick up new items and patches, but eventually they will be defeated by the never-ending grind of fighting enemies.
Here is where Sparklite reveals itself as a rogue-lite gem. Players respawn in the hub in the sky between each run, keeping all the experience, items, and currency gained, which can be used to enhance Ada’s stats. Sparklite features a time-loop mechanic that takes effect after Ada has died. This means that when Ada respawns, dropping back down to Geodia reveals a completely different landscape that has continued to be warped and reshaped by fractures. Therefore, the core gameplay loop centres around Ada descending onto Geodia’s surface, locating and defeating the Baron’s Titans which are abominations that have become twisted and mutated by their surroundings.
Exploring treasure-filled sinkholes or caves feels over-simplified, but is unbelievably relaxing. The majority of gameplay requires the left analogue stick to move and mashing square to attack enemies. Therefore, navigating around sinkholes, caves, and temples requires little focus—yet it is this lack of focus that allows players to engage more easily into the relaxing nature of the gameplay. In addition, the maps are easy to traverse because each landscape is relatively small so moving from one area to another reveals a new landscape. This allows the player to feel like they are exploring greater distances in a short amount of time.
However, a unique gameplay feature that really stands out is how the game provides a new weapon or gadget, only then to demand it back as a ‘sacrifice’ to progress to another area. These bittersweet scenarios offered an interesting element different to most other games where story progression allows players to keep their unlocks for a foreseeable duration. Obtaining and losing a new gadget occurred countless times throughout the game’s temples (which act as tutorial arenas) and is the keystone of what makes the game different. For example, one temple contained a flying vehicle loaded with explosives called a ‘Boom Balloon’. The balloon dropped an explosive payload onto multiple enemies with immense impact but had to be left behind to exit the temple.
Sparklite feels like a love letter to Nintendo’s iconic Legend of Zelda series. The temples are constructed across several levels and are featured as key places for players to test their skills whilst picking up new gadgets. The game flows just like Zelda as well, and the adventure-based gameplay is extraordinarily fun. The similarities are further enhanced by the game’s 2D pixelated graphics, much like The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. Sparklite is certainly not shy at presenting admiration for other Zelda titles too and even the artistic design and animation of enemies is reminiscent of the foes encountered in previous outings.
One of the game’s weakest features is the odd difficulty spikes. Some bosses offer more of a challenge than others, meaning that whilst some can be defeated within minutes, others can easily take hours and numerous attempts to beat. Additionally, one particular boss battle has a stage that adds a ‘horde’ mode, requiring the player to defeat increasingly difficult—and tedious—waves of enemies. The lack of appropriate difficulty scaling has the unfortunate effect of making boss fights overly challenging and sometimes outright boring. This design flaw is even more disappointing when compared to Zelda games where bosses have always been the series’s strongest asset.
Sparklite is a fascinating and enjoyable rogue-lite adventure title ripe with nostalgic elements for 2D Zelda fans without feeling like a rip-off. Geodia’s world maps are stunning, and the time-loop mechanism allows for almost infinite exploration without boredom setting in. Sparklite carves its own place in the rogue-lite genre and offers an almost perfect balance of gameplay.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4. Also available for Nintendo Switch and PC.