You’ve heard about stories featuring a boy and his dog. Well Sparklite is an adventure centering on a girl and her wrench … and a robot … and this stuff called sparklite.
Our story begins with young, red-haired, mechanically minded girl named Ada puttering along in her airship above a land called Geodia. But trouble brewing below causes Ada’s craft to crash. Soon she and her little sidekick robot, Wingnut, are pulled into a growing, world-polluting problem.
You see, in this world, sparklite is this gem-like substance that the people of Geodia use for both power and currency. And generally, they’ve only acquired as much of the stuff as they need to get along comfortably. But an evil Baron has recently sent out his mining Titans to dig up vast quantities of the stuff to fuel his nefarious, world-conquering plans. And this massive excavation has not only unbalanced things to the point of causing huge earthquakes, it’s also opened fissures in the ground, spread a corrosive muck all over the place and started morphing the wildlife into acid-spitting beasties.
So Ada takes it upon herself to set things right.
As Ada, you have the task of exploring and revealing the various mapped zones of Geodia. You’ll fix and/or smash things with her oversized wrench, open loot chests, and gather sparklite as you explore grasslands and caves and the like.
The game also features a creative patch system that helps Ada improve her multitool wrench and her other abilities. The found patches can increase how many life-energy hearts you have, pump up the damage delivered by Ada’s wrench, decrease damage taken, and even reveal the location of underground vaults and big boss miners that Ada must eventually take down.
Ada also picks up a jet pack, some ranged weapons and some bombs she can use to clear away rocky obstacles and solve door-opening environmental puzzles that are otherwise out of reach or made difficult by gaping fissures.
But the fact is, right out of the gate the enthusiastic-but-fairly-weak Ada is going to be outmatched. That’s why each time her life energy is lowered to a knock-out point by creature attacks, a boss, or some other danger, a group of Geodia citizens in a hovering refuge grapplehook her up to give her some rest and aid.
Sparklite is categorized as a “roguelite” game. And what that means in this case is that each time Ada ventures back down to the planet’s surface, the map is procedurally generated and changed around a bit, and the adventure slightly reshaped. So each time she’s grapplehooked back up, she loses any unused patches she’s gathered. This ongoing change adds a new sense of challenge and requires a new strategic tack.
So, is there any icky or nasty content for moms and dads to worry over here? Well, the fact is, Ada is pretty much always bashing something with that big ol’ wrench of hers, so the combat is constant. That said, these battles aren’t bloody in any way. Given the game’s bird’s-eye retro feel, bested critters and machine-riding bosses just poof away or explode, much like they would if Sonic the Hedgehog were giving battle to Dr. Robotnik. In fact, all of the increasingly more difficult big boss battles had a very familiar Sonic feel about them.
That sense of rising difficulty may actually be the biggest problem for younger gamers drawn to this title, though. The battles can start out feeling easy enough—with the simple challenge of figuring out a boss’s patterns and then running around and striking at the best times. But as you make your way to later Titans and the Baron himself, the growing number of blasting or slashing attacks, along with additional swarms of smaller minions, can get pretty hectic and rattling.
The game as a whole, however, is a pretty straightforward good versus evil, save-the-world-and-the-environment game with a nice old-school vibe. There’s enough here to keep play fresh and fun. And it’s easy enough to set aside for later when bedtime comes.
So, Mom will probably be as happy about it as anybody.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.