17 people found this review helpful
0.0 hrs last two weeks / 6.8 hrs on record
Posted: Aug 26, 2019 @ 9:33am
Updated: Aug 26, 2019 @ 9:40am

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Mana Spark is a pixelated small-scale rogue-lite action dungeon-crawler with which the developer tries to pay tribute to its predecessors and inspirations. I really appreciate that, giving credit where credit is due.

The gameplay was actually really hard for me to get into for this game. I wanted to have a melee weapon to go with the ranged weapon, I wanted faster shooting speeds. In the beginning, it was so incredibly frustrating for me to fire off the bow, wait, fire, wait. It just felt sluggish. When I died very quickly that first run though, I just started again. Good thing I did, because pretty soon I got rolling in the game, getting perks and grabbing items, etc. I did get a permanent perk for increasing attack speed through a blood sacrifice, and the game feels more like how it should at baseline all of a sudden.

It's a roguelite and not a roguelike, it's not even about the things you can unlock, but rather preset perks that you can unlock with progressive gameplay by collecting runes and activating them before heading down into the dungeon one more time.

The content is a little lacking in this game, the game is short, and there is only 3 bosses. Unlike many other similar games, where there are RNG spawning of bosses, there are only 3 here, in the same sequence, found in the same place every time, etc. There is only a handful of enemies, a few active items, and not too great a collection of perks that you can pick up per run. There are 3 playable characters (only the Hunter is available to start, the others need to be unlocked).

All of the enemies are pattern based, and while each one is fairly easy to figure out and to work around after seeing them a few times, it's still incredibly tough when just 3-4 enemies that you are familiar with gang up on you with their different attacks. Fortunately when they are all coming after you, the are very much affected by each other's attacks, so make sure you use them against each other!

The dungeon floors tend to be very small in the first biome (usually just 2-3 rooms plus the entrance and exit rooms), a bit bigger in the second biome (a few big and small but usually not more than 10--my recollection could be incorrect), and fairly sizeable in the third biome (about 15-20 rooms).

Balance is not exactly ideal, in my opinion. Some Elites (I think of them as elites anyway) are optional fights found throughout, often in a cage and you can choose to engage, but be prepared to bet your run with any of these battles. In my opinion, boss fights are easier because their patterns are easily predictable.

Despite that, it's definitely a game that's good and fun for 30 minutes at a time for a decent run, with enough variation from run to run to make it worth your while. Plus the three characters play very differently, with completely different focus on strengths and strategies, so that it's important to make sure your playing style is congruent with the playing character at that time.

Works quite well with controller, with 360 degree aim using the right stick. With the slowed combat speeds, this is quite workable. For me though I kept to a keyboard and mouse set up, because I definitely felt that the precision of the mouse was nonpareil for this game.

Let me put it this way, for those enemies that have shields, it actually makes a huge difference for your attacks whether you are aiming at their shield or their head or feet from the other side of the screen. I just can't achieve that with the controller.

I love the pixel artwork in this game, it's very pixelated art style that has been made to look so good and fluid. There are so many smaller details put into the animation sequences that it just looks right. I think this is really awesome pixel artwork.

Nice music to let run in the background, it's not too intrusive and when you are amid all of the action, you will probably hardly hear it. The sound effects are simple and work well together.

Well, if you are itching for another action roguelite, this is really quite a nice one to try. Just keep in mind the really slow combat in the beginning does take some time to get used to.

At a base price of $9.99, I do think that a lot of people will think that it should probably be priced a little less. The content is really not that much, as mentioned above. But in terms of having fun for a few hours, I am perfectly content with that asking price. I think it's totally fair.

Mana Spark is clearly created with plenty of love for gaming, especially with its influences showing up directly as gameplay mechanics, items, or perks in-game. There are a lot of nice things about it and there are also some bugs that you might encounter when you play. I find that the developer seems to be fairly active in responding to the bug reports on the forums, and so that's nice to see. It's a small project that takes a bit of time to get used to. Its slow pace isn't for everyone, but those who are going to enjoy it will definitely have a blast.

Everything put together, I would rate it 7.5/10.
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