A mysterious Journey
At the end of my journey with Sparkle, I felt enlightened, like a huge weight had been lifted. Having travelled across a vast map and collected ancient mysterious keys with a heavy heart, looking up to the sk…oh wait it’s just a Zuma-esque puzzle game where you match balls to complete sets and stop the chain falling down a dark and dismal hole, so let’s start again.
Having played the original Sparkle and liked it, I was intrigued to venture into the second and see what gameplay improvements and added features there would be. The idea was pretty much the same and the map identical to its predecessor which was a little disappointing. The “story” behind the game reads like chapters from a spiritual handbook, you are on a journey to find five keys that opens a mysterious lock. Abandon hope all ye who enter here, as many have tried and failed before you to unlock the hidden secrets within. Your progression is marked with dots as you travel across the map towards windmills and hand statues, with eerie feelings that you have to leave this place.
Sparkle 2: Xbox One [Reviewed], PlayStation 4, Playstation 3, PlayStation Vita, iPhone/iPad
Developer: 10 tons
Publisher: 10 tons
Release Date: 27 January 2016
Price: £6.39 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
An abundance of Grass
Aside from the story, I was disappointed that they hadn’t changed the backgrounds for the levels since the original Sparkle. Every level is bland and dull, with grass the prominent and underwhelming feature throughout. Levels consisted of grass, grass with snow on, more grass with a couple of mushrooms thrown into the mix. Obviously having uninspiring backgrounds doesn’t hinder the gameplay but I’ve found with games of this nature, bright and vibrant backgrounds can really help make the game more exciting because lets face it, all you are really doing is shooting coloured balls at each other.
One thing that 10tons have added, which is actually quite a cool feature, is enchantments for your ball slinger which affect the gameplay and can help make things a lot easier. You’ll definitely need to invest some time deciding what combinations to use, especially on the harder difficulties which are unlocked after your first run of the story. Enchantments are gradually unlocked as you complete levels so getting quite far into your first playthrough is required in order to use them all.
I’ve got the power
Power-ups make a triumphant return and are your reward for building up your combo, basically, it remains unbroken until you miss or the ball you shot doesn’t clear the line. Unlike other similar games in this genre, keeping your combos up is really easy to do with only a few colours to choose from for the majority of the game and power-ups that destroy and change the current line-up to one with less singular coloured balls. The power-ups are where the magic really happens, watching fire rain down from the skies and annihilate everything in its path to causing a marching line of bright pink butterflies to march and destroy balls that are closest to falling. This is where the game shines. The sheer abundance and diversity of these power-ups take your attention away from the grass surrounding each level to watch with satisfaction as the world, or more importantly, the coloured balls burn in front of your eyes.
I would have liked to see a leaderboard added or even a personal score for each level as racking up high combos and clearing the level quickly doesn’t really reward you with a physical bar you can see to work out how well you’ve done. Score would have made building those combos up all the more rewarding and would also encourage replayability in the basic story levels to beat your friends.
Overall Sparkle 2 has slightly improved from the first installment and uses a concept we are all familiar with, these sorts of games have always been addictive to play and this one is no different. With over 100 levels and a fantastic, magical soundtrack that accompanies the levels well, you can’t really fault it for what it tries to achieve, which is an addictive, simple fun matching puzzle-game that may not blow your mind but will definitely keep you entertained for the hours you just want to relax and match colours. It’s great if you’re colourblind too with markings on the balls allowing you to easily distinguish them.
With the two added difficulties and survival and challenge mode, the game certainly isn’t over quickly and you’re reflexes will be tested as you try to gain all the stars. Is it as good as games like Zuma? No, maybe not. Is it addictive and fun? Yes, and definitely worth your time if you enjoy games of this nature.