Sparklite is a new Zelda-inspired roguelite adventure developed by Red Blue Games and published by Merge Games. It might not be on many people’s radars, but it’s both the best Zelda-inspired game and roguelite I’ve played this year.
I first previewed Sparklite at GDC 2019, and while I only got to play through the very beginning of the game, I was definitely intrigued. Sparklite has you play as Ada, a female engineer who is trying to collect all the sparklite she can and save the world from the greedy Baron and his Earth-shattering machinations. Ada’s weapon of choice is a multi-tool wrench, which also serves as her basic attack and the one to be used most often. Ada can also obtain gadgets, which can be helpful both as weapons and as puzzle-solving tools but cost energy. Widgets are another type of item Ada can utilize, but they are only temporary since she loses them once she dies.
The main goal of Sparklite is to defeat the Baron and his machinations while collecting sparklite on the way. Sparklite is used as currency and can help upgrade shops at the Refuge, which is the main hub area. The med bay is the part of the refuge you spend the most time in, as it’s where you’re sent to respawn and where you can purchase and equip patches. Patches have a variety of uses and can upgrade health, energy, defense, and damage dealt, as well as show you important locations on the map and more. You don’t start with much health or energy, so it’s best to collect as much sparklite in order to be able to equip more patches and make sure you’re strong enough to take down enemies with ease.
Enemies themselves aren’t difficult once you know how they attack, but it’s always beneficial to have a little extra else just in case one ends up hitting you. Different enemies have different amounts of health, so some can take more damage than others. Ada’s multitool doesn’t deal much damage, and multitool upgrades take up four spaces on the patch board, in addition to not increasing damage all that much. I found that I only had room for one multitool upgrade patch at the beginning if I wanted to still have some extra health and defense, but having more health and defense as well as a few locating patches seemed to help a lot more.
Each different area has a boss that you can either go straight to, or wait until you’ve collected more sparklite and have upgraded the refuge a bit more. Once I was able to, I preferred going straight for the boss, even if I wasn’t quite strong enough, still making sure to collect some sparklite along the way. Bosses can be challenging, but once you’re able to recognize their attack patterns, fighting against them becomes easier, although they might end up defeating you a few times before you can finish them off. After defeating a boss, a new gadget to get past certain obstacles is obtained and more spaces are added to your patch board, allowing you to further customize it to fit your style of play.
The one feature of the game I don’t like in particular is how the landscape shifts each time you die. At first, it’s not so bad, particularly after you get the locating patches, but it becomes unnecessarily prolonged once you unlock more areas. The first area is the Vinelands and after defeating a boss, instead of starting in that newly unlocked area each time you go to explore, you still start in the vinelands, meaning you have to find your way through the vinelands and to the current area you’re exploring. Some kind of fast travel option from the vinelands to other areas would be a great additional feature. On the bright side, starting in the vinelands means you get to collect more sparklite along the way. One other problem is that when traveling from one area to another, loading times are longer than desired (at least on Nintendo Switch), but this hopefully will be fixed in the future.
Despite the few problems I have with Sparklite, I’ve been really enjoying my time with it. It gives me the same type of feeling that fellow Zelda-inspired roguelite Moonlighter did last year. Even for a roguelite title where you’re expected to die many times, I feel like I’ve been making progress relatively fast and at least have been able to get to the fourth boss without any major problems. If you’re in the mood for a fun roguelite game where it doesn’t feel like it takes forever to make progress, then I highly recommend Sparklite.