With SAGE in full swing, it’s nice to be able to play an original work from a developer of several Sonic fan games who has gone on to succeed with their own creation. Felipe Daneluz is well known in the Sonic community for his fan game “Sonic Before The Sequel” among others. But his gaming career really took off with 2017’s “Spark the Electric Jester”.
Much like Sabrina DiDuro’s “Freedom Planet”, the game was heavily inspired by the 16-bit era of Sonic the Hedgehog. A second, 3D sequel came shortly after that was itself heavily inspired by the Sonic Adventure series. Now comes “Spark the Electric Jester 3”. Does the game do enough to separate itself from its Sonic-inspired roots? Errr… Yes and No. That is to say, it’s less “copy and paste” and more “anything you can do, I can do better.”
Spark 3 starts out surprisingly not with our main character running at full speed, but behind the wheels of a speedy race car while flying robots are chasing you. It’s a nice way for the game to differentiate itself from other Sonic games before Spark jumps out of his vehicle and speeds away on foot. From here on out, most of the other levels start to feel familiar to Sonic fans while the game slowly introduces new mechanics through tutorial levels reminiscent of the Sonic Simulator levels from Sonic Colors that are both fun and somewhat required to progress as every level gives you a medal to collect. These medals are necessary to reach further levels, but not at the frustrating extent of something like Sonic Unleashed. Plus, I highly recommend them, as the skills you learn in those levels will be needed later on.
Most of Spark’s moves will be familiar to Sonic veterans but done slightly differently and in many ways, improved. Spark’s homing attack on weaker enemies is on a separate button from his jump Similar to how it is in Sonic Unleashed, but here, it makes a ton of sense as you have several attack options. The game identifies which enemies are weak and which are strong which allows you to help vary your attacks. There is also no boost, but a slight dash to help you move forward. Just remember to hold down that dash button when wall-running or doing parkour “Lost World” style.
If there’s one thing that can be said about this game, even though it borrows a lot of moves from the Sonic series, in many respects, they are done better. Jumping and sliding down rails is done with ease as the physics helps magnetically keep you on the rails. You can even duck to slide down faster or hold dash to help keep up your speed when the rails go up higher. Switching between rails doesn’t feel as good, but it still works well.
Spark also has an array of close combat moves that help differentiate himself from the hedgehog. You can attack a variety of robots with rapid attacks and combos while parrying their moves as well. Starting off with a well-timed parry will often open the enemy to a full-on assault by the yellow speedster. These are mostly done in boss battles that have their own levels and help break up the high-speed action. That said, they’re not nearly as fun as the main meat of the game.
Outside of its combat and MegaMan X-like environments, what really sets Spark 3 apart are its vehicles. Some levels let you drive a high-speed car while others might see you inside a large helicopter with turrets and missile launchers. These parts of the game are few and far between but offer a nice change of pace from all of the running and jumping.
While Spark 3’s environments and vehicles do well to separate itself from Sonic, it still doesn’t do enough to really branch out. Some levels feel too familiar to Sonic’s 3D roots. This is especially true of Area 2: Drynion Desert/Lost Riviera. A level where you are grinding on rails and dodging trains way up high in the air with canyons in the background. If this sounds familiar it’s because this level is very similar to Rail Canyon from Sonic Heroes. Imitation is flattery, but this is way too close to the original in my opinion. That said, it actually plays better than Rail Canyon once again thanks to the improved controls.
The soundtrack is really solid. With Paul Bethers returning along with Lellani Wilson and Teodor Dumitrache as composers. The music for the most part rocks with compositions that fit each environment. However, like the game itself, it does seem heavily inspired by the Sonic Adventure series. Also, it does borrow some tunes and sound effects from Spark 2. That said, it’s nice to not have to listen to constant vocals from the main character for a change. Just little chirps and bleeps.
While Spark the Electric Jester 3 still hasn’t fully separated itself from its Sonic-inspired roots, the controls, and gameplay overshadow any familiarity with the Sonic series as it adds many improvements. I never felt like Spark was out of my control. Something I can’t always say about Sonic in 3D. If you need something to play while waiting for Sonic Frontiers or just need to satisfy that action-platform itch, I’d highly recommend Spark the Electric Jester 3.
Editor Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the developer of the game ‘Freedom Planet’. This has now been corrected. The Sonic Stadium deeply regrets and sincerely apologises for the error.