When people think consoles, the big titles like Call of Duty usually come to mind before small puzzle or indie games. Microsoft and Sony have been doing a better job lately of bringing more indie games to their consoles and we take a look at a mobile to console port in our Sparkle Unleashed review.
As with most basic puzzle type games, there really isn’t much of a story here. I’d be content enough with just the gameplay, but 10tons Ltd. has tried to include a story for their match-three marble Zuma-esque game. A quick intro informs you that a darkness has mysteriously covered the lands and you have to travel through them finding and lighting magical braziers along your way as you banish the darkness once and for all. After that you’re thrown into the game map and start out on Day 1. Every once in a while you’ll be fed a tidbit about the darkness but overall it doesn’t really add anything to the game – especially considering there isn’t even a character on the map or in the gameplay to relate to.
Sparkle Unleashed is a really simple game, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s a marble matching game, simply match up three marbles (which 10tons calls orbs for this game) of the same colour to make them disappear, and as a result shorten the chain of orbs snaking it’s way across the map. Once you match all the orbs, the chain disappears. Make all the chains disappear before one finds it’s way to the rabbit hole and you’ve cleared the level and can move onto the next.
Controls are super simple. Slide the orb launcher from left to right using your thumbstick, the A button shoots the orb and the B button will swap it with the orb underneath. Oddly enough, there is no directional pointing so it can be tricky at times as you can only shoot straight up.
There are normal orbs, stone orbs, and chain orbs to mix things up. To get rid of a normal orb, simply match three of them. Stone orbs will explode when you match three coloured orbs beside it, while chain orbs require two matches – the first will break the chain (and cause the non-chained matching orbs to disappear) turning it into a normal orb which you then have to match up a second time.
If you make enough matches in a row, you’ll receive a powerup. There are 18 different ones you can unlock, and you can have 6 selected at any time. When you do receive one, you’ll receive one at random from those you have selected in the options menu. The powerups range from the expected – one clears a bunch of orbs in a purple explosion, the frost powerup slows things down – to a bit more interesting, there are powerups that will change colour of a bunch of orbs, another casts fireflies which randomly change the color of orbs throughout the chain, and another launches a flurry of butterflies that eat the first few orbs in the chain. To unlock powerups, you’ll come across a brazier every time you clear a few levels. When uncovered, the brazier gives you a key which you can then use to unlock a new power up which are organized in rows of 6 so you’ll have to unlock from the bottom up in order to be able to use the more powerful powerups.
The game has three modes, normal, hard, and nightmare and there are achievements for completing your “quest” on each of these modes. There is also a survival mode with various levels in which, as the name implies, you see how long you can survive with endless chains of orbs crawling across the screen. There is even a bit of variety in the levels; most require you to simply clear a specified number of chains (which increase in number the further along the map you progress), while others require you to survive for a specific amount of time.
I’ve put about 6 hours into the game so far and am on Day 40, with 108 levels in total as well as survival mode and the other difficulty settings, Sparkle Unleashed should keep you going for quite some time.
The graphics in Sparkle Unleashed are relatively simple as well, but for a game like this you don’t really need mind blowing graphics. Each level is pretty much the same aside from the shape of the path or paths that the orb chains follow along, but to be honest you’re not really looking at the background as your concentration is focused on making the matches to clear the chains out.
On the other hand, the sound design and soundtrack, composed by award-winning composer Jonathan Geer, really adds to the game. The sound effects are simple, and work well with the game type. The background music is simply bang on, and there are enough variations that it doesn’t get old or annoying which can happen in simpler puzzle type games like this. For the most part the music is upbeat and pleasant, when you are close to failing it changes and really adds to the sense of urgency in clearing those orbs before the chain makes it to and falls down the hole causing you to fail the current level.
There will be times when you need a break from the hardcore multiplayer action or epic saga type video games, and Sparkle Unleashed fills those times quite well. At only $7.99USD, it’s definitely a steal for over 100 levels, survival mode, and three difficulty settings. You can also play the first 23 levels for free before you decide if you want to unlock the full version. If you’re in the mood for some quick puzzle type marble matching from time to time, you can’t go wrong with Sparkle Unleashed from 10tons Ltd.
***We were sent a review copy of Sparkle Unleashed for the purposes of this review.