Reviewed on Steam
Did you know I’m quite a huge fan of fangames and rom hacks? I’ve mentioned it a few times before, but I truly enjoy seeing the ideas and creations fans can come up with to the point I’ve even delved into making my own.. though that never ended up far. When I saw Spark the Electric Jester for the first time on Steam, it looked like a fun Sonic-inspired indie game. Then I saw the creator of the game, which made my interest suddenly turn into a lot of enthusiasm to play this game. I’ll stop the teasing for now and get straight to my reasoning.
Spark the Electric Jester was released in 2017 for Steam and created by Feperd Games, otherwise known as LakeFeperd. LakeFeperd is an independent Game Developer situated in Brazil. People who are familiar with the 2D Sonic fangames community will most likely recognize this name straight away, as he is the creator of some of the most famous Sonic fangames out there: Sonic Before the Sequel, Sonic After the Sequel and Sonic Chrono Adventure. So far I have only played Before the Sequel, but even having knowledge of one of the three, it’s easy to understand why they’re amongst the most famous Sonic fangames out there. Feperd and the crew who helped him with the earlier fangames went to Kickstarter to fund their first official non-Sonic related game which we’re talking about today, which met the goals they needed. Stretch goals were unfortunately not met, but we still got the full promised game after being greenlit on Steam. A second, full 3D game is currently in the works as well! Check out Feperd’s Patreon and the video down below for more information.
Spark is an unemployed electric jester whose job has been replaced by robots. Getting another job wasn’t easy as well, since robots were everywhere. Spark was pissed; rightfully so, as I know very well how it feels to be unemployed. Good thing I got a job now, but the same goes for Spark as one day, robots start to ravage and all hell breaks loose! Spark’s job as a hero has now been set in stone.. is what I would like to say, but he mostly just wants to pay his doppelganger Fark a not-so-friendly visit. Eventually Spark ends up in a plot revolving not just him and his faker, but the entire world.
The unnamed world of Spark the Electric Jester is a beauty to the eyes. I especially like the stage Caria Valley which is a mix of beautiful cherry blossom trees and the futuristic theming the game has. That theme is executed in most stages, which aside from the mechanical side all have a different elemental environment like deserts and space. The game also tries to tie the stages together by having Spark walk to the next one after the objective has been completed. If all these stages truly were connected it would probably be a weird world to be honest but let’s not question a game about a speedy.. whatever Spark is. I do appreciate it trying to tie stages together however, don’t get me wrong. The stages are also designed similarly to how the Sonic games design theirs, with multiple loops and unique gimmicks for each stage not unlike the ones we see in actual Sonic games. The stages are longer and bigger than what we’re used to, having quite a lot of different paths to get from point A to point B. It’s likely that the second time you go through a stage, you might want to explore a bit more and discover even quicker paths to reach the finish.
So we have a Sonic-inspired game and now you ask me, how does Spark play? He’s fast and agile, and controls very smoothly. He has a dash that can be used at any time but it won’t give you much more speed than you already have, so I only found it useful for running up slopes. The other signature move Spark has is wall jumping, which worked but it felt kind of finnicky as you couldn’t touch anything but the jump button for it to work. I often dropped down because I had touched the control stick, something I would usually do in other games that allow me to wall jump because it’s almost essential there. Fortunately Spark doesn’t need to gain speed to stick to the wall and jump off, but I have to mention it regardless. Spark does not curl into a ball and as such does not damage enemies by jumping or rolling into them, neither can he do a homing attack on them. As compensation, enemies can’t hurt Spark in their idle animation and instead only damage him when actually attacking.
So if Spark can’t attack enemies by jumping on them, how does he actually destroy them? That’s actually where the other two inspirations for this game come in which I haven’t mentioned yet for a reason (sorry not sorry for tricking I guess), namely the Kirby and Mega man X franchises. Scattered throughout the stages are multiple capsules which each house an ability for Spark. They act similar to Kirby’s copy abilities in that they change Spark’s look, as well as being thrown out of him when hurt. But I do have a problem with this, as the ability is sometimes dropped and sometimes.. not. It’s so unreliable because you almost never know when the ability is going to get dropped. Up until stage 7, I never even lost an ability when being hurt but in the latter levels it happened quite frequently. The ability can fortunately be picked up for a short amount of time, and you can carry two with you at the same time which you can also switch between so unless you’re not picking up other abilities, there won’t be a time you’re without one. The abilities behave like you would expect them to: multiple different combat styles to fit your gameplay preferences, ranging from close combat to projectiles. There are multiple attacks per ability including charged-up attacks, and some even have useful platforming moves that can make your life a lot easier. I used the Electric Bat a lot because I could use it as a Screwattack, and the Sword for actual combat. There are many different combinations out there, and the abilities might just be one of the best defining mechanics the game has.
Spark has a life bar of six segments, which can be regenerated by picking up health tanks laying around the stage or dropped by enemies. Other pickups include electricity for the electricity bar which is yet again a controversial point for me. When the bar is full, it will function as a free revive after a defeat. Think of it like an e-tank but for revival purposes. Sounds neat right? But the bar takes a serious amount of electricity to fill up, to the point where it has little use in the late game where you might die occasionally. I can safely say that it might take three stages, if not more to fill the bar completely. What’s worse is that after you die, the bar resets to zero straight away regardless of how much progress you had made up till that point. If the bar had not depleted that would actually fix my main issue, and make its purpose also more understandable. If you’re facing a difficult boss you have trouble defeating, you could grind a bit to get that meter up. Other methods would be including some secret areas or minigames in stages to get a big amount at once, since the stages are pretty large it would reward you for exploration.
Bosses at first are a pushover. This is mainly the case due to not being harmed during their idle animations, and some starting abilities being pretty overpowered anyways for big, slow moving enemies. This does change halfway through the game however, as bosses become grand with more attack patterns and just being hype fights overall. I had tons of fun fighting some of these, especially the one that would place you in holographic environments. There are several mid-bosses as well in almost every stage. The right combination of abilities and learning their patterns should usually do the job, meaning that you might fail a boss occasionally but since there’s a checkpoint in advance and no game overs, you will succeed eventually.
Beating the game once will take around 5 to 6 hours, but the fun doesn’t end there. When you first start up the game you see a character selection screen with only Spark and four question blocks. To ruin the surprise no, this does not mean there are four more characters, but there is one which is definitely worth your time: Fark the Electric Faker. He actually plays very differently from Spark as he has no abilities to pick up and is instead completely reliant on his own fighting style. He does take some of the best attacks and platforming skills of some abilities however, like double jumping and dashing in the air which actually gives you major speed too. His fighting style is a little bit more difficult and combined with only having three health segments, he can be considered the hard mode of the game. Though there already is an unlockable hard mode so.. hard hard mode? I don’t know. It’s safe to assume that completing the game will take you more than 20 hours. I have not completed the game yet but depending on how much I like playing as Fark, I might.
I’ve mentioned it before, but Spark the Electric Jester has some really beautiful pixel art. It really is a treat to the eyes to look at. Unfortunately I do have to mention that—especially in the late game—there are some significant framerate drops. I usually don’t complain about this and it will not hinder your gameplay too much, but it’s not pleasant to see the game hit framerates below thirty at times. That aside though, the graphics aren’t the only beautiful parts of this game. The soundtrack is partly composed by Falk au Yeong, who has helped Feperd on his previous fangames. But after the big boys saw his work in these fangames, that’s when his career began as mixing engineer for multiple Square Enix games, Tales of Zestiria and more. His track record has become pretty impressive, and it’s unnecessary to say that the soundtrack he made for Spark the Electric Jester is amazing. I tried to not put a spoiler soundtrack here like Reynol Complex, but I can’t help it; the final boss theme is just too good.
Spark the Electric Jester isn’t a game that should be regarded as a ‘’Sonic clone’’, as it is far more than just that. Spark controls smoothly with many different abilities and melee options to check out. The electricity bar is pretty much useless and wall jumping is also finnicky, but those aren’t necessarily negative points and more improvements that could make the game even better than it already is. Few framerate issues aside, the 16-bit graphics and soundtrack are both amazing, and there is enough replayability with the large, diverse stages and additional modes. And with that, here is my final verdict for Spark the Electric Jester:
Spark the Electric Jester is only available on Steam, and no plans have been known for a console release. It’s usually prices at $6,49 which is a really good price for this game.