As fast as lightning!
Developer: Feperd Games
Publisher: Feperd Games
Released:11th April, 2017
Copy received as part of kickstarter reward.
[Disclaimer]: I supported this game on kickstarter and as a result my name is in the credits.
To say Spark the Electric Jester wears its inspirations on its sleeve would be an understatement, it often feels like an amalgamation of high points from classic platformers like Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man X. This is no surprise, considering the developer Feperd games (or LakeFeperd) has had extensive experience developing Sonic fangames. Their experience and passion shows, The Electric Jester is a fantastic game.
A lot of work has gone into giving each level it’s own sense of character, while maintaining a consistent overall style. Each Stage has it’s own visual theme, a unique look created with careful use of colour and design, while beautiful and detailed backgrounds parallax behind you.
The musical score really helps set apart each level, enhancing the already established personality. This personality extends to gameplay, stages are designed around some core mechanics, giving each of them a unique feel. While the game encourages you to beat a level as fast as possible, it’s nice to take in your surroundings while they last.
Although surprisingly long and often quite open, levels manage to avoid don’t drag out thanks to some careful pacing, just when platforming starts to get old, you’ll get a long section that shows off how fast the game can go. These will sometimes make you feel like you’re running through a rollercoaster, up the walls, ceilings and around loops. The game nails a thrilling speed. Levels are quite accommodating of this, I never felt like i was about to be flung into an unavoidable trap
The closing levels of the game begin to show some concerning design choices, using the same counterintuitive tactics over and over. In a game centred around fast paced precision platforming, mechanics that actively work against the player’s movement turn the game into a frustrating fight against otherwise simple controls, rather than a meaningful challenge. Considering I tried to beat the lengthy story mode in one sitting, my patience was worn thin, and this didn’t help. Thankfully, this only becomes a problem for the final few stages, the rest are consistently excellent.
Between the sprinting and platforming, you’ve also got an army of robots to deal with. The impressive variety of enemies that stand, swim and fly between you and the goal is substantial, but it’s the multitude of bosses and minibosses that really stand out. A mini boss here and there makes for a nice change, while proper bosses often act as a level’s final challenge, as well as a means for the developer to show a flare for the dramatic. Like everything else, visual design has had as much effort put into it as making them mechanically enjoyable.
The fighting system offers plenty of different ways of dealing with enemies, especially when you take into account all the powerups on offer.
The powerups and abilities offer their own unique ability set, for both combat and maneuverability. These powers range from something as simple as an electric baton to the ability to manipulate gravity. Littered around its levels, the game offering you frequents chances to try each out, until you find two favourites, switching between them with the press of a button. They’re all viable and effective as well, even the default jester, leaving which two you choose up to personal preference. Each powerup having its own visual impact on Spark himself was a nice touch, becoming like costumes, they add an extra layer of creativity to the game.
I’m not too keen on the story, it’s the weakest aspect of the game. The general premise is that Spark has been replaced by a robot clone, much to his dismay. Seems pretty simple. But what starts as a simple premise becomes cluttered and confusing halfway through. With a monumental exposition dump, character motivations changing in the blink of an eye and a villain that only properly shows up midway, I could hardly keep up. Somewhat ironic that the story is somehow harder to keep track of than the gameplay.
With regards to how the story is told, the writing is very hit and miss. Given the jokes he tells, it’s easy to see why Spark lost his job as a jester. Sometimes they work, others just fall flat. It also doesn’t help that the very occasional cutscene looks wildly different from the rest of the game. I admit there’s a certain charm to them, but that doesn’t help much when they just don’t fit with the rest of the game.
Spark the Electric Jester may be derivative, but it has a lot of heart and effort put into it. The level design is superb, the presentation is spot on and most importantly the gameplay is fun. While the story could definitely use some work, it’s kept well away from the fantastic gameplay. Playing the game is a great experience and I’d highly recommend checking it out.