Certain games can have us hooked for hours, whereas others are only fun for shorter periods of time before they lose their charm. That doesn't necessarily mean these games are bad, but they act more as titles we can enjoy in short bursts. One of the latest games to come out of the ID@Xbox program that fits this idea is Sparkle Unleashed
, a puzzle title that shares many similarities to the likes of the Zuma
games. Is it just trying to capitalise on the success of previous games or is it original enough to hold its own ground?
Sparkle Unleashed Sparkle Unleashed
is a puzzle title that has you shooting balls (or orbs as the game calls them) into ones of the same colour to create matches. It's a simple concept that is very easy to pick up, but potentially hard to master. A game of this type doesn't need a story to work, but oddly enough, Sparkle
has one, although it's completely unoriginal. Once you begin, you are told by a narrator that an enchanted land has been overtaken by darkness and it's up to you to cleanse the land. How shooting orbs into each other is meant to destroy evil darkness is anyone's guess. However, the story does help to add flavour to the game. Sparkle
possesses a fantasy-style touch and this certainly gives it character. Purples and greens welcome you on the main menu, and you're even given a world map to track your overall progress in the game. The story aspect does flesh out the game a little, but it's more of an excuse for the fantasy direction rather than actually adding any sort of interesting plot.
It's a long way to the end
After learning the basics, you are thrown right into the game's many levels. The idea is to shoot as many orbs into other matching ones as possible before they reach the end of the path. You are essentially on a time limit while the "pushers" that the orbs come out of are periodically sealed. It's fairly easy going at first, but eventually it can become extremely hectic if you can't keep up with the speed of the orbs. You are constantly on your toes as a badly aimed shot can easily screw you up. This can cause occasional frustration if you're regularly losing in a level, but practice makes perfect in this case. Sparkle
almost forces you to get better at the game through increasingly difficult levels so it's definitely rewarding when you're creating countless matches in seconds. As you'll quickly discover from your progress on the world map, there are many levels in the game. While this sounds like there is a lot of content for your money, it actually feels like a little too much. Over a hundred individual levels will need to be beaten to get to the end, but the level designs aren't all unique unfortunately. You will be coming across the same routes regularly where the orbs will simply increase in speed. There was plenty of potential for bigger levels with some crazy paths, but the game amounts to only a limited number that just cycle between each other. Sparkle
overstays its welcome in this regard.
Once I complete this level, it's just another seventy to the end...
Despite having to make it through a ton of levels, Sparkle
introduces powerups to keep things fresh. Every few levels, you'll gain access to a brazier and a magical key, which is basically the upgrade menu. Here, you'll be able to unlock a powerup of your choice to tip the odds in your favour. These range from a spark shot that destroys any orbs it comes into contact with, to the extremely useful wrath of moon which flies through the level, turning many of the orbs into similar colours which makes matches incredibly easy. You need to create a chain of three matches for powerups to appear in levels, so if you're efficient enough you can constantly chain matches together and summon loads of powerups into the level which is definitely entertaining. Missing matches and losing your chain can be annoying, but it's easy to build the chain back up again. Sometimes, though, the odds aren't quite in your favour when orbs are sometimes so spread out from others of the same colour or you are given orbs to shoot that don't immediately match with anything. This is a small gripe, though and can add to the challenge.
As well as the powerups, another strong point of Sparkle
is the music. It fits the style of the game well and immediately tells you what direction it's going in. It can sometimes be a tad dramatic and over-the-top seeing as what you're doing isn't a life or death scenario, but nonetheless it's pleasant to hear as you play through each of the levels. When the orbs are getting close to the hole, the music changes to signal the danger, so being able to hear the delightful music again is motivation enough to increase the orbs' distance to it.
You'll be wanting to get out of this situation fast
If over a hundred levels isn't enough for you, then Sparkle
also has survival levels that unlock early on in the game. These act as challenge levels and the objective is to keep going for as long as possible before the orbs reach the end of the path. These can be fun as they test your skill and rank you between zero and five stars depending on how well you did, but to be able to get the full five it seems like you have to keep going for a very long time. To be able to unlock more of the levels, you will need to acquire a certain amount of stars on the previous levels, so unless you're a pro at the game it may be a struggle to get through all of these, let alone getting five stars in one. They are a nice addition but more of a "take it or leave it" part of the game. Sparkle
is host to twelve achievements. Progressing through the game and practicing will get you the majority of the achievements, but the last few will really test your skill. Once you beat the game for the first time, you will unlock hard
difficulties. As you may have guessed, this won't be an easy task as even the initial difficulty can throw off some people. The game will ask you to get five stars in every survival level
which obviously is no small feat. This is neither an easy or short completion so don't expect to be done with it in a hurry.
is a fun game and the gameplay can be addictive, especially when using certain powerups. The fantasy style the developers have chosen has worked in its favour and, although the limited story barely does anything for it, the theme helps to add character to the title, and the music is pleasant to listen to as you play through the levels. However, the game feels a little too long for what it is and unless a few extra level designs were added in, cutting out a few of the required levels wouldn't have hurt. After long periods of play, boredom may kick in so it's best to play in short bursts. For its price, it's worth a look if you're a fan of these types of games but if you aren't, then you won't be missing out on a ton if you decide to give it a miss.
- Fantasy theme and music adds character
- Fun gameplay with the use of powerups
- Few too many unneeded levels
- Not suitable for long periods of play
The reviewer spent four and a half hours questing through the enchanted lands and matching up thousands of orbs while gaining 7 of the game's 12 achievements. A copy of the game was provided by the developer for the purpose of this review.