Sparkle 2 Review (Vita)
10tons has released Sparkle 2, the sequel to its marbling-shooting puzzle game that’s now available across a myriad of platforms. This puzzler is available as a download for iOS devices, Android devices, Windows Phone 8, Windows, Windows 8 apps, BlackBerry devices, Macs, WebOS and Symbian. Exhaustive list, right? But wait, there’s more! It’s also available for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita as a cross-buy, meaning you can buy it once, play it on your home console and then take the puzzler on the go with your Vita.
Sparkle 2 features a story about five keys that were created long ago that were meant to open a lock that guarded something very valuable. These keys were sent to the far corners of the land, setting countless adventurers on quests to find them. Your task is to find these keys and avoid becoming another lost soul who will forever wander the land in their search. As far as setups for gameplay go, Sparkle 2’s narrative is at least loosely interesting if not wholly forgettable and admittedly unimportant. But hey, it gives you a bit of method for the marble-shooting madness that ensues, so why not?
When you start playing the first level of Sparkle 2, it’s easy to dismiss the entire game as a clone of PopCap Games’ Zuma’s Revenge. After all, you’re tasked with shooting marbles at rolling trains of other marbles that snake their way toward a hole in the ground, a destination that, if reached, will cause you to lose the game. The only way to win is to shoot marbles at other marbles of the same color in order to match three and make them disappear. Getting three matches in a row will net you a random power-up, which you can activate by shooting with a marble. Sounds easy, right? In truth, it sort of is… until you get to the later stages.
As you progress, more lines of marbles appear on more paths, either snaking their way around a convoluted trajectory or speeding by so fast that you hardly have time to line up shots. Your only prayer at making it through these levels is by taking advantage of the three-match, power-up system and racking up as many power-ups as you can. Some of these helpful skills include a flame wheel that destroys marbles around you, a power-up that destroys all marbles of a certain color and even a wildcard marble that changes color depending on the marbles it hits.
The challenge is present and addictive in these later levels and you’re really made to stay on your toes. You’re pretty much at the mercy of your own reflexes during these stages and you better hope that they’re good enough. Thankfully, the controls are simple and sharp enough that you can become a marble-shooting master before too long. I would suggest sticking with the classic controls using the actual thumbsticks and buttons, since they’ll give you better accuracy when aiming and shooting marbles. The PlayStation 4’s DualShock 4 controller allows you to aim and fire with the rectangular touchpad and the PlayStation Vita will let you use the touchscreen, but these are ultimately too unwieldy and inaccurate to really use. You would think that you’d get great accuracy if you actually touch where you’d like your marble to go, but there’s more speed and faster reaction times with the thumbsticks and face buttons.
The graphics are very pretty, considering this is a port of a mobile game that’s made the jump onto a next-gen console. Environments are rendered so that they have bits of personality without becoming distractions. The marbles themselves are very detailed and spell effects from the power-ups are animated very well. The only issue is that the best thing you’re looking at are marbles.
The soundtrack is whimsical and adventurous, giving off the sense that the fate of those keys and the treasure they unlock are in our hands. It’s kind of strange to say, but the music really does make the game. If you try playing with the sound off, it almost becomes a really boring, monotonous experience. So kudos goes to the sound design and composer Jonathan Geer for providing a soundtrack that boosts the gameplay experience.
I wasn’t expecting too much of Sparkle 2 when I first heard about it, but once I started playing, I found that I couldn’t stop. It was an honest joy for me to play through certain stages, beat them and then advance to the next heart attack-inducing level to see if I could repeat my earlier successes. While the story is hard to care about, the gameplay is there and is fun, and that’s all that should matter in a release like this.
This review is based on a digital version of Sparkle 2 provided by the publisher for PlayStation Vita.