Overall - 40%
Casual racing experiences have their place, but Sparks - Episode 1 plays things far too safe. There’s simply no variety or flavor to each of its tracks, making the whole package feel drier than a package of saltines.
Trapezium Development Studio says nuts to the driving sims of the world with Sparks – Episode One, a title described by the team as a “happy non-violent arcade racing game” (their words, not ours). The market’s already got plenty of casual racing titles in the form of the Forza Horizon and Mario Kart series – does this title have what it takes to stand out?
The short answer: No.
Sparks – Episode 1 Review
Rather than focus on beefy-style cars with plenty of options and color schemes, Sparks – Episode 1 boils things down to their most basic elements. Players can choose from eight different cars that all handle the same, with players not even given the chance to adjust their paint jobs.
From there, players can choose between three different tracks as either individual races or as part of a cup. The Green Plane features green hills and sharp turns, the Snowy Mountains feature bridges and mountainous terrain during the winter, and the Sky Curve features a Mario Kart Rainbow Road-style track high above the clouds held up by rockets.
No matter which one players choose, the terrain makes no difference whatsoever. Whether one drives on the ice, grass, or even water, one’s speed will be exactly the same. The handling leaves much to be desired too, coming across as more loose than Bandai Namco’s Ridge Racer series. To make things that much more slippery, players can enter into a drift instantly with a press of the Space button. In short, the controls and engine are not suited for the title.
Things are made that much worse with its overall art style. While the low poly look isn’t bad in and of itself – Formula Retro Racing pulled it off with flying colors – it lacks any sort of personality. The development team also loves their bloom, with all tracks featuring an overabundance of saturation. There are some nice fog effects in place in one of the stages, but the title could have just as easily run on the PlayStation 2 in 2001.
The track layout doesn’t fare much better. When the most exciting thing players come across is a small ramp, you know you’re in for a milquetoast experience. One can easily reset back on the track with a press of the “R” key, but we found that it screwed up with the lap count. We also found the AI to be somewhat weird when using this functionality; there was one time we shot from eighth to second after pressing the key – it makes the game far too easy and comes across as broken.
Casual racing experiences have their place, but Sparks – Episode 1 plays things far too safe. There’s simply no variety or flavor to each of its tracks, making the whole package feel drier than a package of saltines.
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