Mana Spark is a top-down 2D indie roguelike shooter with a focus on skill-based gameplay and avatar upgrades. After going through the game’s demo, my initial impressions are that Mana Spark is a decent little adventure in need of a few tweaks.
Since humanity lacks the power to harness Mana, you are equipped only with a bow and a directional dodge to battle monsters. Gameplay is simple but intuitive; you must evade a variety of enemies, ranging from wolves to mages, and use pinpoint precision to shut them down with your bow. In terms of gameplay fundamentals, Mana Spark gets the job done. The impact of a well-timed arrow shot on an opponent delivers an impressive and satisfying sense of weight, and the possibility of powerups and gold from each kill makes even the repeated encounters feel gratifying.
Mana Spark has challenging and unforgiving gameplay, which in this situation is a gift and a curse. On one hand, encounters are made tense and demanding by the presence of permadeath, but on the other, I think the game’s introduction is a little too slow for a game that you’ll restart so often. The beginning segment serves as a good introduction to the game’s fundamentals, but I don’t think it necessarily warrants revisiting on death. Instead, I think repeated playthroughs could be made more enticing by using the outer area as a separate tutorial mission, whilst the main game takes place inside the dungeons.
In terms of visuals and sound so far, Mana Spark delivers in some areas and could use some improvement in others. The diegetic sound in the game’s starting area is good – the sound of wind against leaves and footsteps on grass builds a great sense of atmosphere, and the auburn colour arrangement makes for a convincingly sombre autumn vibe. The dungeons – or at least what we’ve seen of them so far – could be a little more interesting though. The actual geometry can make for some fun and tactical combat scenarios, but the dungeons aren’t all that visually pleasing at the moment. A little music wouldn’t go missed either.
Mana Spark has an excellent feature that deserves commendation, and that’s the AI co-operation system. Sometimes you’ll see small goblins dash to mount enemy wolves, allowing goblins to attack with their projectiles whilst benefiting from the wolf’s improved mobility. It makes for not only an interesting combination of enemy attacks, but also adds a layer of strategy to Mana Spark, as an intuitive visual cue will notify you when enemies are about to co-operate. This gives players an opportunity to strike and interrupt opponents to prevent the scales from tipping even further in the enemies’ favour. It’s an ingenious little feature that helps add a little nuance to the game’s intuitive simplicity.
Ultimately, I think the guys at Behemutt are sitting on some good material with Mana Spark, it just needs to get the ball rolling a little quicker when it comes to restarting, as well as some more visually creative dungeon design. It’s a fun little game that you might enjoy if you’re a fan of roguelikes.