Sparkle Unleashed (Switch eShop) Review
If Sparkle 2 shared a lot in common with games like Zuma, then Sparkle Unleashed shares as much with Luxor. If you haven’t played these older puzzle games, then what I’m saying makes little sense, but for those who know, you know exactly what you’re getting. The Sparkle games aren’t entirely clones, they share very similar gameplay, but the real differences can be found in what they do.
A quick explanation of the Sparkle games — you have a ‘slinger’ that fires coloured orbs at a chain of coloured orbs on a one-way trip to darkness. You clear the orbs by matching three, and you need to destroy enough chains to clear the level. Sparkle 2 had the slinger that could fire orbs in a 360-degree motion. Sparkle Unleashed introduces the ‘unleashed orb slinger’ which scrolls along the bottom of the screen, and can only be fired upwards. For a game with ‘unleashed’ in the title, it feels like removing the freer 360-degree movement has made it more limiting. This change has made the game more difficult than the Sparkle games before it, as you don’t have as many opportunities to clear orbs on the path. This is good as the previous games are quite easy, but this new mechanic can be frustrating.
Sparkle Unleashed is essentially more Sparkle. If you’re itching for another fix, this will help fill the sparkle void until 10Tons puts another Sparkle onto the Switch. To mix things up from the last time, there are different kinds of orbs to give you a challenge, such as chained and boulder orbs. Chained orbs must be matched once to clear the chains before becoming a clearable orb. Boulder orbs just get in the way and are cleared by clearing orbs adjacent. These kinds of obstacles are standard fare in puzzle games. They do make the levels harder to clear, especially combined with the now-limited range of slinging. Clearing orbs and creating combos reward you with power ups. There is also a new way to unlock the power ups to make your sling all-powerful. Each time you clear a few levels and light a new brazier, you get to unlock a new power up. You’re only given a few to choose from and to access the more powerful ones you must unlock the more basic version. Only one power from each grouping can be selected which still leaves you well equipped. You can always come back to it and change it if you’re struggling with a level.
With 108 levels to play through, you’ll be busy for quite a few hours, not that it’s ideal to try and rush through Sparkle or play it for hours in one sitting. It isn’t rare to want to put the game down after a handful of stages, but it’s still great to pick up and play for a few minutes, like a mobile game. Every now and then after clearing a large batch of levels you’ll get a picture of scenery and a brief voiceover, without any context or any consequence to the game. Now I really don’t want to compare this game to its predecessor, but there was a bit more effort put into the ‘story’ moments of the game. It was paper thin to begin with, it’s just weird to continue it at all if you won’t improve on it. While there is the ‘story’ mode, there is also a survival mode which is exactly as the name suggests: clear orbs until you lose.
If you approach this game without having played Sparkle 2, then you may not have some of the issues I have, after having spent quite some time with at least 2 other Sparkle games. There is fun to be had in Unleashed — clearing stages of orbs is therapeutic, and the whimsical music adds to relaxing nature of the game. Well until the orbs nearly reach the darkness and then the music gets dramatic as you frantically sling orbs to push back the line until everything is lost to the darkness or you snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and the music begins to play again.
After playing Unleashed for a while I thought I noticed something strange — a level had the same name as one I’d played half an hour ago. I then played some more levels and realised that I was playing the same levels. It wasn’t exactly the same, obstacle orbs were added in while re-using the same field of play. If you were playing the game in short bursts you may not notice it. The only way I noticed was because they kept the same name for the level. Knowing Sparkle Unleashed is essentially replaying a bundle of levels is a letdown. Some levels can be quite tricky, and the last thing I want to be doing was clearing them again but with obstacles in the way. This is in addition to the whole game feeling it was made more difficult artificially by limiting the range of the slinger to only horizontal aiming.
Sparkle Unleashed can of course be played docked or in tablet mode. I would recommend tablet mode as you have much better control over where you sling the orbs. A small but quite helpful addition to this game is that you can make an aiming sight appear to help you aim. It might be small, but it can make all the difference when playing on a bigger screen and using a controller — you can see where the orb is going to go.
Sparkle Unleashed feels quite the opposite of it’s name at moments. Having the slinger tethered to the bottom of the screen doesn’t help, but there is still a fun Sparkle game there. If you remember Luxor then this game will bring those memories back, if you want a fast-paced puzzle game or just to clear some more orbs, with all gripes aside, Sparkle Unleashed can get the job done.
Variety of challenges
Plenty of levels