The Rouge-Lite genre is not something that is ever really hurting for new additions in recent years. Design a handful of rooms that fit together almost regardless of placement, then the game literally builds itself. The problem is that the difference between a well designed, balanced experience and every other attempt is a razor’s edge that not many developers can successfully walk. Sparklite has taken up this challenge, with ¾ action RPG inspired feel straight out of the Mana series–it was literally its game to lose.
Graphically, Sparklite hits every note that anyone could ever want. The game simply shows beautifully. Any trailer, gameplay, or quick look of the game will quickly win over any nistaloga riddled 16-Bit era fan. The characters’ movements are fluid and well formed, and they feel like they belong in the world. Half steam-punk and half strange fantasy, everything is overly colorful and reminiscent of a time when people were allowed to use the entire color pallet, but limited on pixel count.
The controls of the game are odd. The review copy was given on the PC, but that was clearly a port that was done as an afterthought. The character will always look in the direction that the mouse is point, and swing the melee weapon at a click. For any ranged weapon this is fine for accuracy, but for close combat it simply isn’t fast enough. The game also runs in a window by default, so it is possible (and likely), to click outside of it during gameplay and minimize the still running game–resulting in death. A controller, on the other hand, is responsive and perfectly well suited. Oddly they cannot be swapped between as with most games, as once the first bottom prompt is cleared in the menus, the choice has been made with that control type.
The game itself feels overly difficult. Most rouge-lites are challenging, and decent chunk of them can be vastly punishing–but a good one will always make it feel like it is the players fault if they fail. Normally the way out of the constant failure loop is to overly prepare for encounters by leveling up or stashing away better equipment. When there is simply a wall early on that players hit that makes it feel like it is both the games fault for being too punishing with not enough chances for advancement, the entire experience has fallen apart. A player can only grind one small area over and over again before it is simply not rewarding. This is exactly what happened with Sparklite.
You can check out our opening stream of Sparklite embedded below:
Enemies in the first area are so damaging that most attempts to mitigate their abuse do almost nothing. The games special abilities take forever to cast, have either poor range, do almost no damage, healing skills that barely heal, or have buffs that don’t last long enough. One or two may be forgivable, but all three basically makes the entire subset of skills in general worthless. Basically it leaves a player that is running around, thinking they can augment their experience, but almost always in either the same exact place they were before they attempted anything, or possible a worse scenario due to a failed attempt at casting. The only thing that seems to make much of a difference are health ups, but even they come with their own problems.
Sparklite is an interesting game. There are ideas in it that should be explored, and developed. Those ideas are not ones that people should be charged for. There really is so much going for this game that when it starts to fall apart just minutes into it it is painfully saddening. Anything can be fixed after launch, thanks to the internet, but at this moment this game can simply not be recommended in any format.