Developer 10tons is not new to the indie games scene, but they are new to PlayStation. Sparkle on Vita is their entry into the scene and I’m hoping it’s not their first. Not just because I enjoyed and am still enjoying their take on the Zuma-like match three gameplay, but also because mobile devices already have Sparkle 2 and a more of their high rated games.
Sparkle is one such clone game, it looks and plays nearly exactly like Zuma, with a few subtle differences. First off, Zuma is not on Vita. So, right away Sparkle gets a point in my Book of Useless Points. My expectations of the game were one thing, that I may be disappointed, less than amused, or feel forced to insta-uninstall. Once I completed my first few puzzles, I felt none of that. I was impressed at how they pulled of such an uncanny resemblance to Zuma, and I don’t necessarily mean in looks.
First off, if you’re not familiar with Zuma, Sparkle is a match-three type puzzle game. There is a shooter in the middle of a snaking line leading to a dark ominous hole that looks very unwelcoming. A long line of orbs or marbles rolls into view and follows this line, fast at first before suddenly slowing when a substantial number of them are on-screen. The player controls the shooter, and once marbles roll into view the shooter will become equipped with a few balls of its own. You can see the next two balls in your shooter in advance of the one you’re about to short specifically for the purpose of planning your shots in advance.
Matching colored orbs is something I don’t plan to enjoy right away. It reminds me of throwing rocks into a stream and trying to hit the fish. But the gamer in me enjoys the strategy in plotting out combinations. By creating adjacent pairs before eliminating the one in the middle and watching the planned chaos unfold. With mere seconds and a bit of luck, achieving a 5x combo with a genocidal effect to that string of orbs is very satisfying…if it weren’t for the next string of orbs lying in waiting.
Sparkle finds a way to keep the ball smashing gameplay interesting by rewarding significant matches with power-ups. My favorite of which is the paint brush power-up which when shot at a group of dissimilar marbles, will paint them all the same color making them that much easier to eliminate with one shot. Another power-up called the Frost Ray fires a wide area blast out. Each power-up can create its own form of devastation when used strategically.
I found myself tearing through the levels at a marathoners pace, with virtually no end to the puzzles. There is a lot of gameplay here for the minimal entry fee and this makes me very happy. Especially when the game itself is delivered so flawlessly, with just enough depth to make it interesting while serving up the addictive gameplay so effortlessly. I wound up playing over 100 puzzles within Quest alone, not to mention the 26 Challenge levels with four difficulties each, and 10 Survival levels with 12 puzzles in each. That is a ton to play and I want to play them all!
Sparkle somehow wove a dark plot into the puzzling gameplay. That ominous hole I mentioned early is the premise for something bigger, dare I say “twisted”. On the Main Menu beneath “Play Quest” tells this best by saying, “Save the existence from darkness.” Within the quest you play missions along a path. There are several silhouettes of landmarks you are trying to reach in order to find runes scattered throughout the forest. This is the key to completing the quest.
Along my Quest playthrough, I discovered Amulets. Each of which holds a special power that can be utilized in a puzzle. Sparkle allows players to equip one Amulet before the each level. On the Amulets menu, each Amulet has a perfect description of what it will do to the game to help out and even tells how many times it was worn, or used. There are 15 to find and the first I ended up using 30 times before switching. The Amulet of Swift shoots orbs twice as fast. I seem to remember it taking a while before I unlocked that ability in Zuma. But the one that has saved me the most during the last leg of the Quest was the Amulet of Plenty, which makes a power up pop out of the hole every so often.
Power ups are the key to finishing puzzles as fast as possible. I found that any Amulet aimed at enhancing this was a winner to use. It’s almost cheating, because towards the end the orbs were flying out more rapidly and there were not many pairs, meaning I had to make them pairs before they could be eliminated. The Fire Bolts power up gives three flaming bolts that will eliminate a single targeted orb. The Purple Flame will take out a small group of orbs while the Frost Ray will obliterate all the orbs it’s fired through. The Fire Spinner is similar to the Fire Bolts, but shoots out a bunch of bolts in a revolving pattern.
To round out one of the best mobile game ports I’ve played in a long while, Sparkle’s trophies and in-game statistics prove how long Sparkle’s legs are. While this may please people like me looking for a fun puzzle game with a small digital footprint, it will likely repel anyone looking for quick trophies. There are still a few of those to grab. But as the stats screen suggests, you’ll need to play through the Quest multiple times.
Sparkle is easily a keeper on my Vita. Not only is it affordably priced, but it offers the most match-3 gameplay of any game on Vita to date. It looks good, plays great, and is a very small file size which should bode well with MB pinchers. 10tons has a bright future planned out for themselves on the Vita with other ports coming soon including Sparkle 2.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Familiar match-three gameplay
- Dark theme makes it all a little more interesting
- Awesome power-ups that help in a pinch
- Use either touch or stick controls without changing settings
- Lots of endless gameplay even after the lengthy quest
- Extremely replayable
- Very small file size
What I Dislike:
- No bonus for marksman shots through gaps