Mana Spark is basically what you would get if you crossed Dark Souls with the Binding of Isaac. It combines the impactful combat of the former with the sense of progression present in the latter into one package and even offers up a few cool features of its own. However, the game does suffer from some boring world design and finicky camera controls.
Impactful combat. Many games like this seem to suffer from floaty combat, or rather, combat that feels like it lacks any impact. Fortunately, that is not the case here with Mana Spark. The combat is constantly giving feedback, whether that be the impactful hits on an enemy or the damage the player is taking. Although I did have a few frustrating deaths, there was never a moment where I felt cheated due to a lack of combat feedback.
Nice sense of progression. If there is one thing Mana Spark does really well, it would be the sense of progression. Even though I was constantly dying in the game and losing my items and gold, I would always make some progress back at the game’s home base. I would constantly come back to this base and upgrade my equipment, unlock new power-ups, weaken certain enemies, etc. For a game that does not have any difficulty options, this is a nice way to compromise for those that want a challenge, but also do not want to feel like they are wasting time by constantly dying.
Gif-saving feature. One feature Mana Spark has that I have not seen in any other game is the ability to save replays as gif files. This option is given to the player upon death, but can also be done at any time from the game’s pause menu. It makes sharing specific gameplay moments so much easier than going through programs like ReLive or Shadowplay (which must have their video converted to gif format first). It only took me a few hours amass a small collection of frustrating deaths, ready to share directly to Twitter, Discord, etc. It was a nice feature to have and I wish more games could do the same.
Lack of map diversity. For a roguelike, Mana Spark has some pretty disappointing map diversity. The game simply does not have enough unique rooms per area and, as a result, it was not uncommon to see the same room over and over again. In fact, it felt like I was seeing the same rooms copy-pasted across just a single run, although with different enemies and loot. This is a game where the player is constantly dying, so the lack of map diversity really makes the exploration element grow stale quickly.
Finicky camera controls. Mana Spark‘s camera controls are pretty finicky, especially so when using a mouse and keyboard.
I had the game’s camera bug out on me a few times, making it so my reticle would swing wildly across the map whenever looking left and right. In these situations, I was forced to swap back to using a controller in order to get rid of the issue. However, when using a controller, the camera just does not feel right. In fact, I would even describe it as nauseating at times. It moves around so rapidly when aiming that I got a headache just trying to keep up with it. As such, I would recommend sticking with the mouse and keyboard controls, even if it does occasionally bug out.
Note: The developers have told me that the mouse bug I ran into has been fixed.
Mana Spark may have some issues with world design and camera controls, but it manages to be a pretty decent roguelike regardless. This is largely due to the game’s impactful combat and nice sense of progression. The gif-saving feature is a nice touch too. The game may not be the best at what it does, but it is still a worthwhile recommendation.
You can buy Mana Spark on Steam here.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.