Growing up in the early 2000s, the original Xbox and PlayStation always drew my attention. I don’t know why, but for whatever reason, I was never a Nintendo person until the Nintendo Switch. That’s a distinct difference between the creators of Sparklite and me. The three developers at Red Blue Games grew up playing Nintendo games like The Legend of Zelda, setting them on a path to one day make their own action-adventure game.
“The three of us grew up on Nintendo games, and we've always just had that itch that wants to make our own version of one,” said Kevin Mabie of Red Blue Games. “In the end, Sparklite has had many inspirations—aesthetically, there's obviously old SNES Zelda and Secret of Mana—but, there are also more modern inspirations for gameplay, such as roguelite mechanics similar to Rogue Legacy, along with a town-building aspect akin to Bastion.”
Recently I met with Mabie to talk about Sparklite and take a look at a demo. The story follows a female engineer named Ada who has to save the world of Geodia by taking down the evil Baron. Sparklite powers everything in Geodia and if harnessed safely, it doesn’t leave a negative impact. However, that leads to our villain, the Baron, polluting the world by aggressively mining and burning Sparklite for power.
“While climate change is one example in our theme, we really wanted to confront greed as a whole—especially when it disregards the effects/damage it causes to everyone else and the environment,” Mabie said about the villain’s motivation. “The villain in Sparklite, the Baron, is inspired from the robber barons following the industrial revolution era, often characterized as in pursuit of wealth and power.”
After crashlanding on Geodia, Ada runs into corrupted Gremlins and creatures tarnished by the Baron’s greed. Equipped with a wrench, she collects Sparklite passively to upgrade her gear and fuel a floating town known as The Refuge. This is where NPCs take Ada to after falling in battle. A large part of my planning and preparation for each adventure take place at The Refuge.
Sparklite Preview | Engineering Fancy Gadgets
The demo immediately presents me with a way to upgrade my wrench into a multi-tool through the use of patches. Attaching those to a Patch Board on Ada’s wrench increases her health, damage, and energy used for special abilities. The special abilities function as Gadgets in Sparklite, tying into Red Blue Games’ focus on science.
“We knew we wanted the game to be colorful (again, like Nintendo games) but with a gadgety/science twist,” Mabie said regarding the underlying science theme.
Gadgets are a fascinating way to diversify your equipment and prepare for certain scenarios. One example of a Gadget is a controllable floating bomb. The Boom Balloon is as silly as it sounds. Ada unlocks new Gadgets in Sparklite by completing little puzzle dungeons known as Vaults. These dungeons test your skill with the Gadget they’re designed for, and if completed successfully, you unlock a schematic to create it.
Sparklite Preview | What Defines a Roguelike?
A tricky area for Red Blue Games is the genre people often attach Sparklite to. It’s an action-adventure game at heart but simultaneously is compared to roguelikes. Every journey in Sparklite embarking from The Refuge always leads to a procedurally generated world. The random encounters, map design, and overall experience are enough to call it a roguelite.
Mabie said, “We set out to make an ‘approachable roguelite,' but found that people associate 'rogue'-anything with punishment, and it was setting the wrong expectation for our game. ... We wanted each 'run' to feel slightly different.
"On the flip side, we also have elements of an action-adventure—you meet and rescue NPCs, build up a permanent Town and equip your upgrades, and we have an overarching storyline to try and tie everything together. We definitely take elements from both sides of the spectrum, but have just struggled a little on what to call it.”
The procedural generation is uniquely built into the story through a reaction from Geodia to corruption. The Sparklite core creates a Disruption or what the townspeople refer to as the world fracturing. This creates an opportunity to acquire new patches as a form of meta progression similar to Rogue Legacy.
Sparklite Preview | Combat Feels a Little Light
Despite Mabie mentioning the team trying to get away from the difficulty of the roguelike label, Sparklite has its challenges. The combat on its own is relatively basic without including Gadgets. A normal slash attack, a charged attack, and a dash make up most of the combat. However, the dash feels limiting since it has a short delay before you can move afterward. Dashing becomes a dodge where you shoot yourself in the foot compared to walking out of the way safely.
Sparklite Preview | Closing Thoughts
Sparklite’s colorful art style combined with a great soundtrack already creates an action-adventure game I’m excited for. I look forward to exploring Geodia further and seeing what bosses the Baron has waiting for me. Those interested in Sparklite don’t have to wait long with it releasing on Nov. 14 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and Nintendo Switch.