Difficult games are often enjoyable because of how satisfying it feels to overcome challenges. The determination that goes into failing against a boss multiple times. Knowing that with every failure you learn something new and maybe even memorize the battle. It creates a situation where it’s not about the battle itself but everything that goes into it. Every failure that leads up to the moment the boss finally drops dead. This is how I wish Sparklite felt.
When I first played Sparklite for a preview, the story’s focus on corruption and greed grabbed my attention. A baron aggressively mines for energy-producing sparklite, causing the world of Geodia to crumble. Out of nowhere, a female engineer named Ada crashlands and decides to clean things up. Her goal is to destroy all the giant machines harvesting Geodia for energy. Despite the decent setup, the story doesn’t get much deeper than that.
Sparklite Review | Struggling Through Boss Fights
There’s a term in video game development commonly referred to as coyote time. It’s often used in platformers where it provides leeway in jumping off a platform too late. This is a hidden trick to make things easier when you’re jumping off of nothing. Sparklite seemingly has none of that. Almost every big fight feels like a moment where everything has to be perfect.
I can pinpoint something in each major fight that I didn’t like. I love a good challenge, but there’s a difference between that and something I can’t overcome. I spent several hours on the Timbert boss because it didn’t show a vulnerability until my eighth attempt. That same fight has a misleading mechanic where a giant log slams down. I dashed away when it slammed out of instinct, trying to avoid the shadow underneath it. It turns out, the actual slam is double the size of that shadow.
Sparklite’s inconsistent difficulty often challenges players for the wrong reasons. This shines through when a boss like Timbert takes several hours when another could take just a few minutes. It’s possible Sparklite could use some version of coyote time to make fights feel less frustrating. Instead of being invincible during a dodge, perhaps dodging a little quicker or farther. Even during my preview, Sparklite’s dodging never felt comfortable.
A later boss frequently attacked me during cutscenes. This battle progressed through phases and they hit me when I had no control of my character. This wasn’t a mechanic or a way to provide a challenge. It’s seemingly a recurring bug that I hope the developer fixes.
Sparklite Review | Grinding the Meta Progression
Developer, Red Blue Games, uses a form of meta progression in Sparklite to help offset its difficulty. A major mechanic centers around Ada’s multitool weapon with an upgrade tree on it. These upgrades are attached to her weapon to increase health, energy, damage, etc. They are purchasable or looted from chests around the world.
Geodia’s corrupted creatures are the primary source of currency for buying upgrades. This currency is also used to expand Ada’s base camp known as The Refuge. NPCs rescued from the now corrupted Geodia offer services like new weapons and consumable items. Slaying countless corrupted beings in various zones is where the grind comes in.
My main frustration with grinding the lesser creatures of Sparklite is how easy most of them feel. I figured I would naturally become too strong for a region, beat the boss, and then move on. Instead, it felt like grinding boars in the South Park episode parodying World of Warcraft.
The developer tries to keep this grind interesting with procedurally generated worlds tied into the story’s lore. However, every region stays in the same general area and upgrades acquired early on tell where landmarks are. It ruins any reason to explore aside from grinding creatures in a new zone.
Sparklite Review | Discovering New Gadgets
Many of the regions in Sparklite have a new gadget Ada can unlock. Some function as ranged weapons, while others let you complete hidden puzzles. Gadgets use kinetic energy, charging whenever you use normal attacks. It’s a neat way to encourage a mix of basic attacks and special moves.
The unfortunate reality is buying new gadgets often falls on the backburner to character upgrades. Throwing my currency toward upgrades, expanding The Refuge, and new gadgets is a quick way to go broke. Being able to shoot an orb instead of a magic crossbow bolt doesn’t make much of a difference to me.
Ada’s companion in Sparklite also unlocks new gadgets separately. Wingnut is a little controllable drone that digs for treasure and occasionally chests. Certain gadgets on them help with unlocking new regions and solving puzzles as well. Wingnut doesn’t do anything crazy, but they do provide a neat excuse for a local co-op mode.
Sparklite Review | Closing Thoughts
A lot of the issues I have with Sparklite surround boss fights and their bad mechanics. Bosses like a scorpion with a drill to mine sparklite are well designed, but still, fall short. It’s a cute game that becomes tedious due to its difficulty forcing a boring grind. I want to enjoy everything Sparklite has to offer, but honestly, it runs too long.
TechRaptor reviewed Sparklite on PC via Steam using a code provided by the publisher.
- Well Designed Environments
- Small, Enjoyable Puzzles
- Mellow Soundtrack
- Poorly Designed Boss Fights
- Difficulty Encourages a Boring Grind
- Bugs Ranging From Minor to Gamebreaking