The original Spark the Electric Jester started out as one of many Sonic fan games, before it took on a life of its own and became a rather cool platformer filled with its own original ideas. Where the original Spark took after 2D Sonic games, the sequel – Spark the Electric Jester 2 – attempts to be more ambitious by taking after 3D Sonic games, namely the Sonic Adventure series. Speaking of, both games in that classic series can still be played on Xbox One via backwards compatibility. Spark 2 was a bit of a surprise console exclusive launch, which came alongside the announcement of Spark the Electric Jester 3 on the very same day. Needless to say, the titular Jester has given Xbox a cool new platformer IP.
Spark the Electric Jester 2 is a largely experimental game, and this is something the series’ creator has also admitted as it was a quite an undertaking to create a 3D Sonic-style experience. Even for a fully budgeted studio at SEGA, creating a 3D platformer of that style is extremely difficult, and so as flawed as the game may be, Spark 2 deserves a lot of props for executing its lofty goals at all. The game, all things considered, is a success and has certainly given the developer much confidence as they get into the development of Spark the Electric Jester 3.
The game takes after Sonic Adventure 2 in many ways, in game design and especially in its presentation. Everything from the menu design and even the fonts mimic those of Sonic Adventure 2, and they even hired a band that does their best impression of Crush 40 – a band near and dear to the Sonic fandom. Spark 2 even tries to go above and beyond to deliver a narrative, and in the attempts to be edgy and cool it all just comes across as utter cringe. Still, at least the character designs are fun, almost like a combination of Sonic and Nights into Dreams with a dash of Dynamite Headdy, all to create an aesthetic any SEGA fan would fall in love with.
That’s a good way to sum up Spark the Electric Jester 2. For the intended SEGA fan this is a game they will love even with all of the flaws in place, but for most other players this might be a tough experience to enjoy – but given time even casual platformer fans can appreciate this indie effort for what it does. The production values are acceptable for what they are, even when the graphics feel a bit unfinished and the 3D mechanics are a bit unpolished. However, the sum of its many flawed but charming parts tend to come together as a memorable whole.
Spark the Electric Jester 2 can be a cumbersome experience to get into, especially with the slippery controls and erratic camera angles, all of which make the platforming needlessly frustrating. Once players work their way through the game’s learning curve, the experience matches that of some of the best moments of Sonic Adventure, and these are moments of pure bliss where the sense of speed and kinetic platforming perfectly synergise with the energy of the rocking music. As derivative as the music can feel sometimes, there is a lot to love about the utterly catchy soundtrack of Spark 2, with plenty of tunes of an earworm quality.
It also takes a bit of practice and patience to get used to the gameplay and the level design. Granted, the level design can be confusing and erratic for the most part, but there are segments of pure joy, especially when you zip through loops and speed tracks. The boss battles attempt to be larger than what they are, especially when backed by a great theme song, but they almost feel like unfinished concepts. There’s a bit of a diamond in the rough quality in the game design here, where most things feel unpolished and conceptual, but after a while the innate brilliance of the ideas shine through. Thankfully, Spark 2 has strong replay value and most stages don’t outstay their welcome, which means subsequent revisits of the game’s levels are far more enjoyable than the initial impression.
The core mechanics are what helps Spark 2 to hold up, all things considered. Granted, things get a bit slippery in movement but even the best of Sonic games have this problem. Fark’s homing attack (yes, a very unfortunate name) is on point and the other power-ups and close-quarter combo attacks add a bit of variety to the gameplay. The best part is, when running through loops and tracks, players retain control rather than things being on autopilot.
Spark the Electric Jester 2 on Xbox One is an admirable effort from an indie gaming standpoint, as creating even a functional 3D platformer is a tough task even for a fully budgeted development studio. The game manages to execute its ideas with much success, and ultimately as flawed as the many moving parts may be, they all come together to create a memorable whole, especially when it is backed by excellent soundtrack presentation. The best part is, it looks like the developers are on the right track to make the upcoming Spark the Electric 3 a promising addition to the 3D platformer genre.