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Mana Spark – 10 Hours To Clear A Mediocre Twin-Stick Dungeon-Crawling Roguelite With Zero Replayability

Disclaimer: I have cleared the game with all 4 characters, but not the Spicy Burrito challenge (Die in one hit, no items) because the characters do no damage and the final boss is already enough of an extreme damage sponge.


Well first, let's take a look at the Steam description:

A challenging action RPG with deep souls-like combat and rogue-like elements. Explore a dreadful dungeon and fight smart enemies that will plan and collaborate between themselves to defeat you.

  Sounds great, doesn't it? This isn't that game though. It does give that initial impression by having the first character have a noticeable cooldown between shots, shield-wielding mobs with a 100% blockrate, and enemies dealing 2 damage starting midgame which effectively 2-shots. That's about it though; enemy AI is a joke (as in will stand on traps and friendly fire each other without a thought) and "deep souls-like combat" amounts to each character having an attack button, an i-frame button, and a sub-weapon. If it weren't for the extreme damage, it could comfortably be cleared in a few attempts.

Lack of Variety and How to Snap The Difficulty in Half

  The Hunter uses his bow, The Guard uses her crossbow, The Warrior does 180 degree sword swipes, and the Naturalist uses a crappy boomerang to mark foes for her pets. They only have one attack animation besides The Warrior who has three. The items amount to DMG/ATK SPD/HP UP/OTHER, but you'll have seen all of them by the 5th run. Compared to other roguelites, every run is nearly identical.

Speaking of which, here's part 1 of breaking the game:

  • 1) Stack attack speed.

  • 2) Congrats, you can stunlock all normal enemies now. Very riveting deep souls-like combat.

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Here's step 2:

  • 1) Buy the freezing grenade.

  • 2) Upgrade it with meta-currency so that you start out with it and freeze enemies for 6 seconds.

  • 3) Congrats, you can attack anything with impunity besides Phase 1 of the final boss. Just don't use it too close to a wall and accidentally freeze yourself.

  • 4) (Optional) Get the powerup that cuts active item cooldown in half. Congrats, you can practically stunlock everything now besides the last 2 bosses who can sneak an attack in between being frozen. Very exciting deep souls-like combat.

The Naturalist's crappy boomerang doesn't really benefit from weapon buffs. Instead she can use her special ability (unlocked with 120 meta-currency because of course it does) to sacrifice her max HP to bring enemy bats back to life and hp drain for her. As long as you don't get one-shot and can dodge, you can stall (which you'll have to with her damage) and live forever.

The Warrior is Kinda Bad Though

Here's a TvTropes link: Instant Death Radius aka when a game clearly emphasizes ranged combat to not die.

The 3rd boss specifically has a dash attack that triggers when standing close enough which only The Warrior would be in range for. Kinda sucks to eat an instant 2 damage and then there's the 4th boss. The Warrior's iframe move is to stand in place and raise his shield; it does not work against any of the 4th boss' attacks because they bypass or last longer than the shield's protection. The Warrior also has to head to the top of the screen to attack, right where the boss spawns in walls of projectiles on top of him for instant damage and every tell is identical for an attack besides the laser beam. Good luck, I only won with the healing bat pet to counteract the constant chip damage.

There's also the common shield enemies. The other characters have the option of aiming past the shield, using pets, or with powerups, piercing shots or shots that bounce off the wall. The Warrior has a very wide swing and if it hits a shield, he'll get knocked back and suffer heavy recovery frames. Worse yet are the blue shield enemies that reflect attacks (besides boomerangs); when The Warrior hits them, he instantly takes damage. The usual strategy is to bait them, raise your own shield, and counterattack, but when there's a whole crowd of them chasing after you mixed in with deadlier enemies, it's a much harder task to accomplish. Even with the freezing grenade, some level of care has to go in not accidentally striking a shield in the frozen mob pile.

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And then there's the pyromancers. You can guess how it'll go without freeze nades.

It's Not Memorable

If the gameplay isn't good, it can be made up for in style points. Not in this case though. It's pixel art and not in the impactful purposeful way, but the "this is an indie game" way. The story is a fantasy setting where humans are enslaved because they don't have mana and your adventurer of choice heads into a peculiar dungeon because reasons. You can find the backstory from methodically checking desks and bookcases after clearing the room and hoping RNG gives something new which can be summed up as Half-elf conducts countless human experiments to try giving humans mana and once he ends up with monsters instead, settles for luring adventurers in to awaken their mana from the death dungeon trial.

Why did I write so much for a game I'll forget in 3 days? Maybe it'll save someone a buck. Bad games get ignored or memed. Good games get praised. Obscure mediocrity though…

Meta-Currency

I don't like them, but someone's gonna ask. You're gonna need:

  • Lvl 4 food buff (~120+ Metacurrency to unlock)

  • Special abilities for The Warrior and The Naturalist (~100+ each)

  • Freezing grenade (~40?)

Some other persistent stuff is:

  • Choosing a normal enemy to weaken (15 runes for the most expensive option. Necromancers are probably the best choice since they always come with mobs that die when they die though I never bothered switching from driders.)

  • Starting with a passive item (Not meta currency. It comes from finding a ritual room, lowering your hp to 1, surviving the waves of enemies, and then choosing one of the items you have to always start with in future runs.)

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Some annoying stuff

  • Money is a very inconsistent drop. You'll never know if you can actually buy items in the break rooms.

  • Once a room is cleared, the gates blocking the doorways take a bit of time to get out of the way.

  • Gourmet Spoon is purely a metacurrency item (turn meat into runes if you're full hp). You'll typically have 9-10 items approaching the 3rd boss and when one of them is complete deadweight


TL;DR

There are so many quality games out there. This ain't one of them.

Source: reddit.com

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