I like games where I can move quickly. A soft spot in my soul remains for games like Tribes: Ascend and Crumble, where I can blitz across levels at insane speed if I connect the right amount of luck and skill. One the other end of the spectrum sits the 3d Sonic the Hedgehog games, most of which allow for awesome speeds but confine me to tight rails.
Spark the Electric Jester combines the best of both worlds, giving me that full-control speed I desire while eschewing rails or physics engines. It is a platformer, it is fast, it is beautiful to play. Sometimes. But we’ll get to that.
I think the best kudos I can give Spark the Electric Jester is that it makes fast 3d platforming seem effortless. Many other games have struggled to connect the feeling of speed and control with some actual fun platforming, and most have failed. Spark succeeds. It’s as simple as that.
Wall running and jumping, quick dashes, and other moves round out Spark’s arsenal and add more complexity to the game. As these elements are introduced, bonus stages appear to teach how to use them. It’s a nearly-perfect setup.
Yet Spark sits at just over 1 hour played on my PC. Despite all the praise, I’m not chomping at the bit to continue. Why not?
Why does this game even have combat? I cannot imagine why a game this fast would need to slow down and kick enemies over and over in a mediocre, time-consuming combat system when the platforming is so good. But that’s what it does. Boss battles and mandatory mob fights bring the pace of the game to a grinding halt, and it happens far too often for me to overlook it.
That’s not to say combat is my only issue with the game, but my other complaints are minor. I don’t really care for the game’s art style, and many of the levels have too many literal rails in them for me to grind on. Again, when the platforming controls so well, why throw me on rails for most of a 3-5 minute stage? If all I’m doing is tapping dash sometimes and hitting crouch when griding down a sloped rail, then I’m NOT zipping along walls and making precise jumps and comboing dashes to bounce from enemies to items. And that’s a bad thing.
Will I continue playing the game? Probably. It’s something I’ll jump into whenever I feel and urge to go fast and be in complete control, a feeling I can’t quite get from Crumble or a modern Sonic game. But if beating the game means facing a bunch of bosses and combat rounds, or slowing down for other reasons, I’m not sure if I’ll ever get there.
Verdict: 8 stages beaten, definitely worth a short if you don’t mind combat dropping into your 3d speed game.