Review: Spark of Light
Wonderfully imaginative and engrossing, just over too quickly.
In amongst all the wave shooters and horribly put together tech demos trying to showcase what virtual reality (VR) is like there are some gems, videogames that utilise the designated platform to its potential whilst creating a magical virtual world that just sucks you in. One such title that Samsung Gear VR users should take note of is Spark of Light, a quintessential children’s fairy tale storybook, all wrapped up in VR bindings.
The first VR title by Dutch developer Pillow’s Willow VR Studio, Spark of Light is a nice casual puzzle experience that revolves around a young lad called Nerow, who lives in a fantasy realm with magical creatures and his sister. Then one day this peace is shattered when the greedy Moth King steals the sun, so now it’s up to you as Nerow to bring light back to this darkened world.
To do this most of the puzzles revolve around light, namely using fireflies. Each level is entirely wrapped around you, as if like some sort of miniature railway set. And hidden in the landscape are the fireflies, some are easy to spot while others require a bit more investigation. And they only illuminate once brought back to Nerow, who then uses them to light his way.
These orbs of light have many uses in Spark of Light, as they can be picked up and dragged from Nerow into lanterns or other objects to activate them, moving platforms or unlocking new areas. Take them all away from Nerow whilst he’s walking and he’ll instantly stop, shivering in the darkness until some light is returned.
All the puzzles are simple enough for kids to pick up whilst older gamers should find the hidden quirks of the title enjoyable. It’s the way Pillow’s Willow plays with light and depth that makes Spark of Light so mesmerising. Whilst you can’t lean into the landscape because it’s on Gear VR (make a PC version, hint, hint) the studio has created a rich and vibrant tapestry of colour and landscapes using Unity. Nerow will at times loom over you like a giant, then at other points wander through doorways or along paths in the distance like a tiny insect. All the while there are puzzles to look out for, not all of which can be solved in Nerow’s immediate vicinity.
If there’s one issue that can be levied at Spark of Light is its gameplay length. It’s a single-player puzzle solver, so once you’ve completed all five areas – which took less than two hours – there wasn’t much reason to go back in, or at least play it again straight away. The trouble is Spark of Light is such an enjoyable little title that it feels like you whizz through the levels in no time, watching the credits roll by just as the videogame is getting into its stride.
Spark of Light is all heart, a wonderful fantasy escape for all the family. What it does right it does really well. Pillow’s Willow has certainly shown its talent for creating a rich experience that no one could really hate. What it needs though is more, not only because you just want to keep playing but also to elevate it above the short, sub-one hour throw away demos that litter the platform.