Sparklite

A game by Red Blue Games for PC, Mac, Switch, PS4, and Xbox One, originally released in 2019.
Sparklite is a top-down roguelike action-adventure set in the colorful fantasy world of Geodia. The game stars Ada – and her trusty robot companion – as she ventures through the land, fighting monsters, hunting treasures, and interacting with friendly NPC’s. The world is divided into five procedurally-arranged areas, each of which may be accessed from the grasslands in the center of the map. Exploring the five themed lands allows Ada to defeat the world’s five bosses, and break five seals in order to confront the evil Baron who is stripping the world of its precious sparklite in order to power his mechanized titans, leaving behind pollution in his wake.


When the game begins, Ada is piloting an airship through a storm, which comes under attack by enemies. She uses her wrench and hammer to attempt repairs on the ship as panels fall away, but it’s not enough… As the ship begins to fall, her robot companion stays behind, giving Ada time to reach an escape pod, which crashes into the grasslands below. When she emerges, she recovers her family’s keepsake necklace, which allows her to enter a strange-looking structure.


Inside the strange-looking structure, Ada receives a crossbow that allows her to hit distant targets, and hitting the targets in each room opens the door to the next. At the end of this short sequence, she places the crossbow on a table and it disappears, but she receives the blueprints to the crossbow, which can be used later to create this weapon. Doing this also opens the exit door.


From here, Ada meets a merchant named Hawkins who needs help retrieving his widget bag, and retrieving it rewards the player with a bomb widget, allowing him to destroy a set of rocks to move on to the next screen. It is here that the player encounters the game’s first boss, and getting defeated by this boss results in a giant claw coming down from the sky, which pulls Ada up to an airship called The Refuge… and it is here that the game officially gets underway.


Thes opening scenes act as a tutorial, offering largely linear progression that introduces each of the game’s major mechanics, unlike the remainder of the game, which features open world exploration across dozens of interconnected single-screen areas. Throughout her adventures, Ada meets several friendly NPC’s who offer to sell her items in exchange for sparklite, which is the game’s currency. As expected, sparklite is gained by defeating enemies, opening chests, and breaking destructible objects, and doing this also occasionally reveals widgets that offer Ada secondary abilities (more on this in a bit).


The Refuge is the game’s safe space and hub, with the player returning to it whenever he is killed, or whenever he defeats a boss. When killed, the player retains any money he has collected, but loses his widgets. Also, per roguelike conventions, the world below is rearranged upon death; however, defeating bosses allows the player to return to the Refuge with the layout of the world intact.


As the player earns money, he is able to purchase upgrades, craft secondary weapons, and collect pre-mission widgets. Each area of the Refuge can also be upgraded – for a cost – granting the player access to better widgets, more weapons, and better upgrades.


The upgrade system centers around patches that can be applied to a “patch board”, which is a 3x3 grid, and this can only be done within the medical bay of the Refuge. Patches include quarter-heart health upgrades, increased energy to power secondary weapons, stronger defenses, and greater attack strength, along with numerous perks, such as showing locations of bosses, weapons, and treasures on the world map.


Patches range in size, with the better ones taking up more space. For instance, the patch that allows for increased damage output – which also upgrades the 2-hit combo to a 3-hit combo – takes up four slots on the patch board, which doesn’t leave room for much else. The player acquires more and more patches by exploring the world and discovering large treasure chests, most of which require specific upgrades in order to access.


By purchasing upgrades for the medical bay, the player is eventually able to combine like patches into one another. As such, combining a quarter-heart upgrade with another of the same allows the player to create a half-heart upgrade, adding a half heart to the player’s starting 3-heart allotment. By combining two half-hearts, the player creates one full heart... and this translates to all of the other patches as well. Each combination costs money, but combining patches allows more of them to fit on the board, and later the player can upgrade the board to a 4x4 square and then to 5x5.


Most progress in the game is metered by the collection of currency, which dictates when the player will be able to apply patches and make use of secondary weapons. While it’s certainly possible to defeat all of the game’s bosses with your starting stats, things become much easier once you are able to deal out more damage, and sustain more hits in return.


By default, the player has a 2-hit combo, and holding the ATTACK button charges up an overhead hammer strike that is slower but does more damage. This hammer attack can also be used in a couple of areas to solve minor environmental puzzles, centering mostly around hammering down nails. The player’s movement is slowed while the hammer is held aloft, potentially opening him to attack by fast-moving foes. The player also has a dash maneuver (not a dodge roll) with a moderate cooldown time, allowing him to get out of the way of charging enemies, dodge incoming projectiles, or cross small gaps (Ada does not have the ability to jump).


The first secondary weapon available to you is the crossbow, which can be crafted (for a cost) in the Refuge’s workshop. Using this weapon drains one unit from a secondary meter each time it is fired, and units are restored to this meter with each successful melee strike, forcing players to engage enemies up close rather than just rely on ranged attacks. Later, the player gains access to an explosive weapon, and he even gains secondary abilities like swimming in deep water or passing through small openings. These secondary abilities are entirely optional, but acquiring them allows the player to reach more large chests that contain new patches.


Most enemies take multiple hits to destroy, at least until the player acquires patches to deal out more damage and increase the length of his combo, and the player only has three units of health (also until he acquires more patches). While health can be lost in quarter-heart increments, most enemies cause one full heart of damage with each attack. With enemies being able to absorb so much damage, and with the player’s starting health so low, it iss important that players pay attention to enemy behaviors in order to dodge their attacks and look for opportunities to strike.


This is enforced by an early armored enemy that has a long telegraph for its running charge attack, and projectile-firing enemies give plenty of warning as well. Each enemy type has unique attacks and timing, allowing skilled players to apply the proper strategies to defeat them. Ignoring these behaviors and simply trying to slash your way through enemy forces is a surefire formula for failure.


Given that health restoratives are rare, it’s often advisable to avoid more powerful opponents until you have learned how they behave. However, there are always plenty of restoratives in the chamber before each boss encounter, allowing the player to take on bosses with full health.


Boss battles take place against mechanized titans that have more complex attack patterns, but they are patterns nonetheless. Just as with regular enemies, paying close attention to a boss’ movements allows you to predict and avoid most attacks. As such, once you learn their patterns, boss fights aren’t terribly difficult. Bosses tend to defend their weak points, so players must be mindful of when to move in and deliver damage and when to back off. That said, bosses often remain stunned for a long time, allowing you to perform repeated attacks to work down big chunks of their health bars, which are quite long.


After defeating the first boss, Ada is reunited with her robot companion, whom she may take control over in order to perform robot-specific tasks, or this bot may be controlled by a second player. At first, the robot only has the ability to reach down with a claw to pull up buried items and singing sprites (which appear back at the Refuge), but later, the robot gains the ability to light torches and to vacuum up pools of muck. As these skills are gained, they allow the player to reach themed areas outside of the grasslands.


While exploring and breaking objects, the player occasionally encounters widgets, which may be collected and stockpiled, although only one type of widget may be equipped at a time. These widgets allow for timed passive buffs or unique attacks, such as dropping a timed explosive or firing off bombs near Ada’s position. Unfortunately, these items aren’t terribly useful in combat, as they take a long time to charge and aren’t any more powerful than your wrench.


Instead, widgets are mostly used for environmental exploration, as explosives allow you to clear away stones, some of which drop sparklite, while others reveal hidden underground passages. On the other hand, some widgets provide timed passive buffs that can be quite useful, particularly in boss encounters. These allow for temporary boosts to the player's speed, attack strength, or defense. There’s also a nice healing widget that lets the player restore a single heart with each use, but doing so is risky during boss encounters due to the long charge time.


The game is set in a bright and colorful world, offering retro style visuals, detailed animations, and a charming soundtrack. While the world does rearrange itself upon each player death, this is offset by the fact that the player eventually gains a patch that shows the layout of the central grasslands area, as well as patches that reveal secondary items, challenge dungeons, and boss locations. By assisting NPC's, the player can acquire additional patches to show the layout of other areas on the map as well.


Each region is always adjacent to the grasslands from the same direction… for instance, the wooded area is always to the east of the grasslands, so even without the benefit of these badges, the player can make progress. This encourages some experimentation as players may opt to do without navigation perks and instead focus on patches that provide increased attack strength and defense. The more powerful the player becomes, the easier it is for him to explore, and exploration leads to more sparklite and new patches.



2D CRED
Sparklite was developed by Red Blue Games, a studio based in Durham, North Carolina and founded in 2013. The studio is comprised of twin brothers, Edward and Lucas Rowe, and their friend, Kevin Mabie. Music for the game was composed by Dale North, who previously composed music for Wizard of Legend. For this game, the developers took their inspirations from Rogue Legacy and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.


The game was published by Merge Games, a studio based in Manchester, UK. The studio previously published some versions of Limbo, Dead Cells, Moonlighter, Valfaris, and the Binding of Isaac series, and numerous other titles.


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