There’s something soothing about routine. The repetitive nature of a working week can bring comfort and security, but most importantly a sense of progression through your chosen career. It’s this momentum that invigorates you to push further, honing your skills and craft in the given field. Sparklite aims to bring that same sensation. Here we have a fantasy world where your role is to further yourself and push on into its harsh environments. Whether you wake up early Monday morning, dreading the daily grind to make ends meet, or feel enthused with energy to continue, Sparklite is a game which fits both sides of the coin.
When I began writing about video games, it was a daunting, intimidating world. Many questions were raised, leaving me wondering where do I start, or if I would ever make an impact on the industry? I still don’t have the answers to those questions, but much like my adventure through Sparklite they’re the ones I’m keen to explore and find answers to.
After your ship malfunctions you are forced to venture into this strange new world. Playing as protagonist Ada you arrive at a local mining town, which acts as your base of operations and a sky base to the world below. Dropping into the world of Sparklite is an intimidating experience. Little to no guidance is provided besides a basic tutorial and information is rewarded to you the more you press on into this world.
The story of Sparklite is serviceable, but ultimately forgettable fantasy fluff. It gives you the means to venture into its world, but no sense of narrative drive to do so. The goal? To drop down and defeat a variety of Titans and the dastardly villain, the Baron, who has forced the inhabitants of this world to seek refuge up high in the clouds.
Sparklite plays out as a rogue-lite Zelda-esque affair. Exploring its procedurally generated world, defeating enemies and looting chests gifts you with a plethora of rewards — the most common being Sparklite. This acts as the main currency of your adventure and the driving force behind your whole motive. Sparklite is used to improve the sky base, purchase upgrades and obtain a variety of items to aid you on your quest to save the world. Once you die (and you will — a lot), you’re brought back to your base with all the currency collected, ready to upgrade and venture down again.
As mentioned before, Sparklite often reminded me of my early days as a writer, especially in its opening hours. How everything works slowly clicks into place as you gradually chip away at the world, revealing more layers. When I began as a writer, it took a lot of self learning and experimenting to piece together how the industry worked — Sparklite is the same.
Using the currency to slowly upgrade yourself and purchase better tools to navigate the tough landscape is extremely addicting. No matter how underwhelming a runthrough may have been, there’s always a sense of achievement when everything you’ve collected is retrieved along with your body.
Sparklite isn’t the only thing you bring back. Scattered across the land are small challenges. Reminiscent to dungeons in Zelda, these locations provide a small selection of puzzles specific to the item provided upon entry. A bow and arrow may see you having to shoot targets to open passageways, or you may be gifted the ability to shrink and navigate small pipes. By unlocking these items, the world can become that tiny bit easier every time, invoking you to press further in. It is unfortunate that none of these dungeons are particularly challenging and it can often feel as though these items are underutilised in the grand scheme of things. While Sparklite often soars with its open ended ideas, it feels like a more distinct, linear vision for these segments would have gained it a grander overall identity.
Despite the world changing upon re-entry, everything quickly flows more naturally as you gain more means to navigate. Chests often provide patches, which can be attached to your character to provide buffs in health, damage or a wide range of other abilities. You’re only able to equip a set amount at one given time, with greater patches taking up more room. This sense of playfulness with its abilities gives you a real feeling that this character is your own and the adventure is yours to take.
Once you have mastered the land and ventured to a Titan, you’re met with challenging but fair gauntlets against a formidable foe. Surpassing these gives you the same satisfaction that can be seen in games such as Dark Souls and truly feel like milestones. Combat is fairly straightforward with a simple attack and dodge attack, but items that you’ve found in the world can make-or-break a lot of these enemy encounters. Learning an enemy’s attack pattern and kitting yourself out appropriately to take them on comes with a rewarding sense of accomplishment.
With every piece I write, I can feel myself grow as a writer. And every time I ventured into the world of Sparklite, I felt Ada grow as a character. Sparklite’s lack of narrative is easily made up for with its addictive gameplay loop. The consistent sense of achievement and endless supply of rewards make navigating its treacherous paths a wondrous adventure rather than something that succumbs to a repetitive slog. While it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, Sparklite on Xbox One is a strong contender in the genre and a reminder to push ourselves to be the best we can possibly be.