is the follow up to Sparkle Unleashed
, a marble-shooting matching title from 10tons. The latest in the long running Sparkle
franchise, Sparkle 2
has been out for a while on other consoles and as a mobile title, going as far back as 2013 when it debuted as an IOS title. As a newcomer to the Xbox One as part of the ID@Xbox Program, is it a good fit for the console?
As the game begins, players will find themselves in a forest. The mission is to find the five keys and use them to unlock the wonderful secret something. Each day is a different level as one treks through the forest in search of the keys. Lovely atmospheric music and well-voiced narration tell the story of the keys, so it can be a bit of a surprise when the brief tutorial brings back memories of Zuma
. Players are faced with a string (or strings) of orbs in various colors that roll across the screen. Orbs are fired from a launcher that pivots, rather like a gun turret, into the moving string in an attempt to make matches of three or more of the same color. When matched, those orbs disappear. As matches are made, runes light up around the launcher. Once this circle of runes is complete, roots will grow and close off the orbs so that no new ones will be generated. Then the player only has to finish up what's left. The entire string must be destroyed before orbs begin dropping into holes leading to the abyss, or that level will be lost.
On Day 1, enchantments are unlocked. Enchantments provide a slight edge in the game, such as launching orbs faster or (at higher levels) removing a color from the board, and these are unlocked as the player progresses through the levels. There are four levels of enchantments, and as each level is unlocked, another enchantment can be equipped with a maximum of four being equipped simultaneously, one from each block of enchantments. Enchantments may be changed at any time with the Select button, but added enchantment slots can be confusing due to the lack of explanation from the game. It's easy to keep trying to equip something that's actually already equipped until the player realizes how it works.
Choose an Enchantment
Now the fun begins. As can be expected, the game will gradually become more difficult through the 90+ levels of Sparkle 2
. The orbs will roll a bit faster and three new colors will eventually be added. This is where the power ups come in. After making a certain number of matches (multiples of three), a power up will be generated, which can be collected by shooting an orb at it. Power ups are what keep the game interesting. These are special moves that range from something as simple as Fire Blast, which destroys three orbs of the player's choice, to Color Wipe, which completely removes one color from the board. These can be real lifesavers when things are moving fast and furiously. The faster that matches are made and the player builds up chains, the faster that power ups drop. It pays to make chains as often as possible, especially when keeping in mind that using a power up doesn't break a chain.
For those who like more challenging gameplay, Hard Mode and Nightmare Mode both become available after finishing the game the first time. Hard difficulty is only slightly harder than normal difficulty at the beginning, but as the player proceeds, the difficulty begins to ramp up, especially in the form of unmatched orbs. One can have an entire string of orbs that haven't a single pair, so that all of the matches must be begun from scratch, greatly adding to the amount of time it takes to start destroying orbs, which results in having to re-do levels multiple times.
Fire Spinner Power Up
Other game modes - Survival Mode, Challenge Mode, and Cataclysm Mode - are also unlocked along the way. In Survival Mode, the player must survive for as long as possible (or at least until five stars are earned). Challenge Mode revisits each level, and it must be finished at different difficulties. The first challenge, for example, must be completed in Very Easy, Easy, and Medium. Further along, harder difficulties are added to the list. Cataclysm Mode is a new feature for the Xbox One release. The Book of Cataclysm lets you visit random levels. Once the level is complete, "order has been restored" and a new level unlocks. Unfortunately for Cataclysm Mode, that's pretty much it. It does give the player more puzzles to tackle, but it seems rather disconnected from the rest of the game.
One great thing about the game is that it's user friendly. Gameplay is smooth and the controls are very responsive. The game autosaves after every level, so progress isn't lost by accident, and if a level is failed, the player is given the option to try again immediately or Retreat to the Map. The difficulty rises slowly so that you can get a good feel for the game's mechanics before stepping off into the deep end. Then you can also find Color Blind Assist in the Options menu (accessed with the Select button). A great feature, when turned on the orbs become much more translucent, like glass marbles, with different designs on different colors (red orbs have spiders, for example). The game goes the extra mile to include as many people as possible, both beginners and veterans.
Color Blind Assist
Gameplay is also enhanced by the developer's attention to detail. The boards are varied; some do repeat throughout the course of the game but not annoyingly so. The orbs themselves are quite pretty, almost like etched Christmas tree ornaments. The music, too, is very pleasant, and it not only accompanies the gameplay but puts out a warning when things are getting iffy. The music will change when one is in danger of losing orbs. If the danger is averted, the music returns to normal to let the player know that all is well again. The only real complaint that could be found with the game is the ending. While this isn't an RPG, so having grand expectations would be unfair, the opening story about the keys and the small scene when each key is found makes one expect something
, and there was really...nothing. The game ends with no explanation of what the player was really after, which leaves one feeling vaguely dissatisfied. Since the story element was included, however sparingly, it should be concluded accordingly.
Most of the achievements will unlock in the natural course of the initial playthrough. With achievements for completing Hard and Nightmare modes (as well as Survival and Challenge modes), however, this won't be a quick or easy completion and will require multiple playthroughs. The first ten achievements can be acquired in the initial playthrough on normal difficulty, which takes approximately six hours, but those last four achievements for completing different modes of the game will require a lot of time and skill.
is a puzzle game that provides a nice surprise thanks to its user-friendly approach. As well as the basic matching gameplay, Enchantments provide a nice variety of advantages that the player can choose to employ, and the random power ups keep the game interesting and fun. Harder difficulties and challenge modes are available for those who love a challenge while the game remains accessible to beginners. With good music and close attention to detail, the game can quickly become addictive. Anyone who's a fan of this type of puzzler will be in for a good time with Sparkle 2
, but the last four achievements will definitely take some time and effort.
- Easy controls
- Nice music
- Varied power ups
- Accessible to all skill levels
- Color blind assistance
- Some confusion equipping enchantments
- Non-existent ending
The reviewer spent roughly 12 hours on the game and earned 10 of the game's 14 achievements. The publisher provided an Xbox One copy of the game for the purpose of this review.