It’s only been about six months since the first Sparkle made its way onto a Sony platform, but that’s fine. That just means the game did well enough for 10tons to bring over the sequel, which was already out for other platforms. There is certainly nothing wrong with the Vita and/or PS4 getting new content.
However, how much of this is new? With casual games like this, sequels rarely go the extra mile to differentiate themselves from their forebears. It’s usually a couple of barely noticeable upgrades and they call it a day. Sparkle 2 has to justify its existence by proving itself the superior entry in the series. Let’s find out if it does just that.
There’s a tad more focus on creating a story here. However, that’s like saying drinking a drop of water makes you a tad less thirsty. All you get are a handful of narrated screens that talk about collecting of keys and being creeped out by landmarks. The game doesn’t even have an ending. It just kind of ends when you reach the end of your journey. That’s all right though. We don’t expect too much window dressing on our match three marble games.
The story mode is the crux of the game, consisting of about ninety levels that get progressively more difficult. As you beat levels, you’ll unlock not only upgrades for your slinger, but also more modes of play. There’s a survival mode where you need to last as long as possible in order to get stars, and a challenge mode that picks the stage and difficulty for you. All of the modes are activated through icons on the map. While each mode may have a different overall objective, the idea is still to match colored orbs until either you die or the level ends. When you’ve managed to clear the story mode, you’ll be able to restart it on a higher difficulty. In a way, this triples the amount of content.
Visually, the game maintains the same look as its predecessor. It uses rich colors and a dark fantasy look to great effect. The orbs and effects look great, even if the look doesn’t really evolve much past the first few levels. The biggest visual change you’ll come across is when they throw more colors at you. The backgrounds are pretty, but static and usually crowded by orbs. The animated cutscenes are little more than static images with a glowing or rotating object in the middle. It’s a simple look for a simple game. You can’t really ask for more.
This game uses the same music and effects from the first game. The music would definitely fit with a Tim Burton film, and so it kind of goes with the dark fantasy theme. It’s kind of fun to listen to, and grows on you with each minute. However, it would have been nice to have a bit more diversity. There’s also a voice actor who serves as the narrator. He’s got a wonderfully gravely old voice that fits the game like a glove.
If you’ve played the previous game, or anything like Zuma before, you’re going to feel right at home here. As each level starts, “pusher” starts shoving a chain of orbs down a path. Said path leads to your base, and orbs entering said base mean you lose. Your only weapon is a slinger that shoots out more orbs. Sounds a bit counter-intuitive, right? Well, by shooting an orb so that it creates a line of three or more of the same colored orbs, you’ll destroy that entire group. Do this enough, and you win.
The key is to make combos. By clearing a group of orbs in consecutive shots, you’ll earn power-ups. These power-ups come in all shapes and sizes. The butterfly power-up destroys the first few marbles at the front of the line, the purple flame destroys a huge chunk of marbles, and the wild orb can make a match out of a group of marbles that aren’t even the same color. The power-ups must be shot in order to activate them. Doing so doesn’t break your combo, and is great for getting rid of an orb you can’t use.
Just like in the last game, you can enchant your slinger with various abilities. However, this time around, you can equip multiple abilities. There are three different ability types, and you can have one of each equipped after you’ve unlocked them. These abilities can be simple or complex. For example, one ability will speed up your shots. Another, more complex, ability, gives you a firefly power-up every time you make a red match. Your custom slinger carries over to all modes, making it easy to switch out powers in order to fit with a certain level or style.
Controlling the game is as simple as ever. You can use the analog stick and face buttons, but the best option is the touch screen. All you have to do is tap where you want each shot to go. It makes things quick and precise. Any issues will be your own.
As is the case with these types of games, you’ll likely not think too much of the overall concept, but end up addicted to it nonetheless. On multiple occasions, I played this game until my wrist started to hurt. It was simply that addictive. Even when the levels started taking over two minutes a pop, I couldn’t stop playing. The main story will only take you three to four hours to complete, but it’s hard to reject the idea of starting over on a higher difficulty to see if you can pull it off.
Is Sparkle 2 a vast improvement over Sparkle? The short answer is “no”. However, it does improve enough to be a definitive version of the game. In particular, the ability to equip multiple modifications to the slinger makes this a better overall experience.
Short Attention Span Summary
Sparkle 2 is largely more of the same. However, there are enough improvements here to make it superior to the original game. It’s slowly becoming its own game, instead of just another Zuma clone. If you missed the original, this is the game you should pick up. If you did pick up the original, you may want to hold off on this unless you simply need some more marble matching on the go.