Sparkle Unleashed Review

Sparkle

 

Title: Sparkle Unleashed
Developer: 10 Ton Games
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 331 MB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download

EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes

Thinking about a lot of different genres, we come to have somewhat vague generalizations these days.  When I say RPG, it can mean a dozen different things.  Is it a turn-based RPG like Final Fantasy VII?  Is it a fast-paced action RPG like Tales of Hearts?  Is it a turn-based tactical RPG like Disgaea 4?  Or is it even an action-based Hunting RPG like Freedom Wars?  Many genres have become so expanded that just saying a genre can’t accurately describe a game anymore.

Going into a specific genre, think of the puzzle genre.  There are a million different types of puzzle games.  Across the many reviews I’ve done, a lot of different types of games can be classified in this genre, from The Firefly Diary to The Misadventures of Tron Bonne.  So, to discuss puzzle games, one must be more specific.  Is this puzzle game we are describing a side-scrolling timing-based puzzle game.  Or is it, perhaps, a marble shooter game?

The Marble Shooter genre of puzzle games is what we are here to discuss today.  If you’re unfamiliar with the genre, it has you “shooting” marbles into a collection of other marbles to match colors.  I, myself, was unfamiliar with this specific genre until I played the game I’m about to show you.  Without further delay, here is my official review of Sparkle Unleashed!

Story

Sparkle Unleashed is a gameplay-based game, but does have a small plot to it.  In summary, the world is being conquered by the forces of darkness.  You set out on a journey to fight off the darkness and restore light and life to the world.  There isn’t much to it other than that.  It’s a fairly vague storyline, but does set up what you’re going to do, to a point.

Gameplay

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Sparkle Unleashed is what you would call a marble shooting game.  It is a color-matching puzzle game where you shoot marbles into moving rows of marbles with the intention of matching colors to eliminate them before the row reaches the end of the stage.  It’s a puzzle game with a little bit of a space invaders-type element thrown into the mix with how you shoot.  But, all in all, it’s a Marble Shooter, as the developers call it.

The game progresses across over 100 stages, one after another.  There are a couple ways to play this, but you’ll be doing the same stages, regardless.  You will play the stages in campaign mode.  When you finish a stage in campaign, you will unlock the same stage in Survival Mode, which is a fair bit more challenging.  You can also connect online for scores and such.

When you’re playing through a stage, you will be on a 2D plane with lanes, sort of, where bundles of marbles will be traveling.  At the end of each lane or road, there is a hole to an abyss.  Your goal is to not allow a single marble into this abyss.  To do that, you have a Marble shooter at the bottom of the screen with marbles loaded into it.  You shoot marbles into the moving groups to color-match 3 in a row and eliminate them from the rest of the group.

As simple as this sounds, the game is actually quite challenging and a little deeper than you’d expect.  The difficulty comes in the complexity of the later levels.  While some earlier stages only have one row of marbles at a time that moves very slowly, this slowly becomes harder as the game goes through.  You will soon be tackling multiple rows of marbles, shorter roads, and they will be moving much faster.  This is a game of timing just as much as it is strategy.

To help you with eliminating all of these marbles, the game allows you power-ups.  Every few stages you complete will bring you to a brazier, which allows you to unlock a new power-up.  These power-ups can be obtained by performing a chain of eliminations in stages and they can be used for various things.  Some power-ups will slow down the marbles or change their color, while others will fire off magical spells to eliminate set numbers of marbles.

The stages, themselves, run in two different varieties, though you’ll be doing the same in both kinds.  You have the default type of stage and the timed stages.  In the default stages, you must eliminate all marbles on-screen.  In the timed stages, there will be significantly more marbles on screen, but you need only keep marbles out of the abyss until a timer hits zero.

There are a few things to note about the gameplay that may deviate you from it.  First of all, the game’s difficulty can be very much random.  What color of marbles you get is 100% random when you go into a stage and then go into the same stage a second time.  Because of this, the game can work with you or against you.  I’ve gone into a stage and gotten great colors and won the stage with little to no difficulty at all.  Then, I replayed the stage and got completely different colors and failed miserably.

Repetition also comes into play.  The gameplay of Sparkle Unleashed is fun once the game begins.  As a fan of puzzle games, I quickly got immersed into the game and was really enjoying it.  However, just beyond Stage 50, the halfway point, it was starting to get very old very quickly.  If you don’t do this game in small gameplay sessions, it will get very repetitive very quickly.

Last, but not least, are the network login screens.  Even when I was connected to the online network, I found the game pulling up those “Connecting to PSN” messages frequently when I would start a new stage when my system wasn’t in Airplane Mode.  The problem with this is the fact that the game doesn’t pause when this happens.  Every time it pops up, I have to restart the stage because the marbles are about to go into the abyss and lose because the game didn’t stop for the login.

All in all, past the 100 stages, the game should take you at least a few hours to finish.  Depending on how nice the game’s random element is to you, that could easily turn into several hours.

Controls

Controlling Sparkle Unleashed is no difficult task.  The gameplay is simple, and the controls are also very simple.  First off, there are touch controls and button controls.  The touch controls can be used for menus as well as swipes and taps for moving and shooting marbles in gameplay.  This is entirely optional, though, as there are button alternatives for everything.

Cycling through the menu can be done with the D-Pad and going in and out of a menu can be done with the X and Circle buttons.  Gameplay is handled by various things.  You can move the shooter with the D-Pad or either of the Analog Sticks.  Switching the currently-equipped marble can be done either with the Circle button or L trigger.  Finally, firing a marble or power-up is done with the X button or the R trigger.

With many different ways of controlling the game, it’s pretty easy to experiment to find a control scheme you are comfortable with.

Presentation

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The visual presentation of the game is one the game’s most notable accomplishments.  The gameplay style is simple, but it looks great.  Every marble and environment detail is polished with precision and there isn’t a blemish to be found.  While this may be expected of a game of this type of design, it is worth noting that it looks very well done.

There isn’t anything worth noting down about the presentation.  The game has no lag or slow-down to speak of and the load times are only a few seconds long.  For all intents and purposes, this game was optimized pretty well for play on both the PS Vita and PlayStation TV.

Summary

Sparkle Unleashed is a unique blend of marble shooting and color matching.  On the downside, the game can get repetitive, the game’s difficulty is completely random, and the network features are a large hindrance on your gameplay progress.  Looking past these is a fun little puzzle game for anyone who likes simple color-matching games. 

7/10