by Ruan Fourie
Sparkle Unleashed is a simple, match-3 marble shooting game and the third in the series – making its inaugural appearance, this time, on the Xbox One. Most keen-eyed gamers would immediately see the obvious resemblance to Zuma (the game, not the bald chap sitting in a fire-pool at Nkandla) and it is indeed very similar.
Gameplay consists of levels where a line of different coloured orbs move on a track towards a hole. It is your duty to prevent an orb from falling into the hole by controlling an orb –slinger and trying to match three or more orbs of the same colour. Doing so will make those orbs disappear and once all orbs have disappeared the level is won. It’s a tried and tested formula that most people would be able to immediately pick up and play. The main distinguishing change from Zuma is that the orb cannon is at the bottom of the screen and must be moved horizontally, always shooting upwards.
The game features a wholly unnecessary story about banishing the darkness from the lands by lighting magical braziers on a map. Start on one side of the map, finish levels sequentially and reach a brazier upon which you can unlock a power-up that can be used in-game. There are six different power-ups that can be levelled up two times each. These appear in a level by destroying groups of orbs three times in a row. When shooting the power-up its magical ability will be unleashed – from slowing time to giving you the power to destroy a large group of orbs. There are 108 different areas, with the difficulty incrementing with each new area – so it’ll take you more than just a handful of hours to finish. Honestly though, that’s not what you play these sort of casual experiences for. To pad out its longevity, there is also a survival gameplay mode that can be played separately from the short story where the goal is to last as long as possible.
It’s all nice, simple and polished enough, and what Sparkle Unleashed sets out to do, it does. The orb blaster handles smoothly and you will always know exactly where you are shooting. At times it even triggers a mild, fleeting addiction – which is just what you want from this kind of game. However, I played this game on an Xbox One – where the game looks and plays like it should be on a smartphone.
At first glance the game also looks pretty with its sharp, high resolution images but closer inspection reveals a wash of static backgrounds that are repeated, ad infinitum, throughout the campaign. In fact all of the areas look so frighteningly alike that I’m not entirely sure the backgrounds have been recycled, or if they just look the same. For a game on current-gen console one would at least expect some flowing water or – for a game called Sparkle – something that actually sparkles. Where are the unicorns flying about and a living world filled with magic and awesomeness? \
Even worse is the music. It sounds great when you first start up the game and then? Then the songs start repeating and you realise that there’s very little worthwhile audio design in Sparkle Unleashed. You have to listen to them over and over again, which becomes rather annoying, rather quickly.
Sparkle Unleashed is not a bad casual game. It’s ideal to get for kids or to play when you feel like just relaxing a bit without the need to make use of more than one or two buttons. The whole thing feels a little uninspired though, as if the developers did the absolute basics to make the game and get it out; A map, some backgrounds, a couple of songs, some gameplay and you have yourself a game. While it can be addictive, it’s a premise we’ve seen before, and done better.
Last Updated: June 3, 2015