Game Reviews

Sparklite mobile review - "Looks pretty, but gameplay is 'lite' on the spark"

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| Sparklite
Sparklite mobile review - "Looks pretty, but gameplay is 'lite' on the spark"
| Sparklite

With her trusty wrench and her loyal bot beside her, Ada embarks on a journey across Geodia in Sparklite, the action-adventure roguelite created by Red Blue Games. Redesigned for mobile by Playdigious, the pixel art game lets players step into the shoes of a wayward adventurer who crash-lands onto a mysterious land filled with pixelated critters and procedurally generated landscapes.

Table of contents

The story of Sparklite

In Sparklite, you play as Ada who's on the hunt for, well, sparklite. You somehow end up in Geodia after a terrible storm, and you decide to take it upon yourself to help the lovely citizens take back their natural resources from the evil Baron. To keep the world stable, you'll have to take down towering titans - who remind me too much of Robotnik from Sonic the Hedgehog - as the Baron's mindless pillaging has shifted the balance across the land.

This clever shifting is the reason for the randomly generated lands in Geodia, and each time you perish in battle down there, you're picked up via a claw machine-esque crane that carries you back to your base in the clouds to start over.

Sparklite's gameplay and graphics

Sparklite land

While there's a clear narrative here, the point of the game is really to harvest as much sparklite as you can before dying so that you can use everything you've collected to upgrade your gear. At your temporary home in the sky, you can build useful structures like the Workshop for the friendly locals and give your weapons and equipment a welcome boost.

For instance, you can use your sparklite to buy special patches that buff up your stats or give yourself permanent health upgrades for a better chance at surviving the horrors down below. Every so often, you'll stumble upon dungeons and solve puzzles through caves in order to nab a blueprint of a specific weapon, which you can reverse-engineer and reconstruct back at base.

These weapons also have various upgrades you can tinker around with, so that each time you head back down for more harvesting, you won't be a sitting duck out there.

Upgrades in Sparklite

The land of Geodia itself is pleasing to the eye, with the adorable pixel art and the smooth animations of everything from plants to monsters. The enemies themselves are also pretty adorable, so it's a little bit heartbreaking (and brutal) whenever you smash them to pieces and watch sparklite explode in their place. The original soundtrack by composer Dale North of Wizard of Legend fame also adds to the whole retro feel of the game.

Sparklite controls

Of course, playing the game is only as enjoyable as its controls, which, I have to admit, I really, really struggled with. The game is compatible with controllers, but for the sake of this mobile review, I did stick to the on-screen touch controls and had a very difficult time.

The mobile version has your typical left-side directional pad and right-side action buttons, with an opacity level you can adjust to make sure the buttons don't get in the way of what's happening on your screen. However, even with this feature, there were still a few times when I struggled with the action buttons because something important was happening down that corner of my screen, partially blocked by the UI.

More importantly, managing the on-screen directional pad was a challenge, mainly because Ada does a slight little slide each time she moves. In particular, lifting your thumb from the directional pad to make her stop doesn't stop her in her tracks right away - there are a few milliseconds of her skidding to a stop, and it might not seem like much, but in a roguelite game where every action matters, that small delay can make or break your whole run.

The same is true for when you switch directions - Ada kind of slides across the floor for a bit, which can sometimes cause you to fail at evasive manoeuvres or even fall to your death in a ravine below.

Random weapon that you can use in Sparklite

What's the appeal?

Despite the welcome visuals of Sparklite, the clunky controls did take away from my overall enjoyment of the game. It also felt extremely grindy, as you'll have to painstakingly toil away at collecting sparklite just so you can earn enough to level up your goods back at base. While I adore roguelites, the elements of the genre that make it so popular don't seem to be well-utilized here.

For instance, one of the things I love about roguelites is the fact that each new run makes you smarter when it comes to strategy and decision-making, and that you actually have a goal to get to with each new playthrough. In Sparklite, it doesn't feel like you really have any new knowledge that makes you wiser for each time you head back down to the monster-infested world - your survival simply boils down to the upgrades you've bought back at base.

Sparklite gameplay with a buff

Because of the grindy and repetitive nature of the game, it also feels like the main goal of each run is to collect sparklite just so you can buy more upgrades - so much so that a couple of times, I felt the need to purposely plunge to my own death when I had enough sparklite collected just so I could head back to base and buy the upgrade I had my eye on.

Overall, Sparklite is a visually pleasing pixel-art adventure with roguelite elements and lovely background music. Sadly, its clunky controls and lack of any real gameplay depth take away from the enjoyment factor of the game. Still, if you want to feel the nostalgia of a pixel art adventure, the game is still a pretty enjoyable title, but I suppose it's just not my cup of tea. 

Sparklite mobile review - "Looks pretty, but gameplay is 'lite' on the spark"

First released on PC and on console in 2019, Sparklite is a pretty-looking adventure with roguelite elements set in the charming land of Geodia. It can be a little repetitive becuase of its grindy nature, so be sure to give it a go only if you're a fan of the genre or of retro pixel art.