Sunday, 18 May 2014

Raucous Reviews: Sparkle 2!


Porting mobile games to consoles is a touchy subject. Will microtransactions plague the game? Why should a console owner pay money for a game that they can get for free? Thankfully, Sparkle 2, the sequel to 10tons' hit puzzle game Sparkle, does not suffer from pricing issues or microtransactions, so you can flick your colored marbles for a wallet-friendly price. 

Wait, did that sound right?

Yes, its true, Sparkle 2 does bear a resemblance to Zuma in that you shoot colored balls and protect your hole, but it ends there. While Zuma is set in a Mayan world, Sparkle 2 seems to have story, something many puzzle games lack. While the snippets of narrative in the form of narrated cutscenes are few and far between, it's still an easy (Albeit basic) story to follow. There are 5 keys scattered around the world that unlock a door that guards something very valuable. Find them. Like I said, basic.

The gameplay is simple as well. You shoot different colored marbles, and if 3 same colored marbles are together, they disappear. Your goal is to protect one or more holes from the marbles by eradicating the onslaught of marbles that take a linear path to the whole. It may sound too simple, but there is more to it. Occasionally, you earn power ups that look abosolutely beautiful, but all seem to do the same thing: destroy marbles. The only exception is Reverse, which makes the marbles, uhh.. reverse.


As you progess through the 90-something levels, you earn permanent powerups that are much more imaginative and diverse, from shooting marbles faster to making levels easier but longer. These are items that change the way the levels work, and are definitely the highlight of the game.

The difficulty seemed much too easy for me at the start of the game, but the difficulty curve rises huge and quickly, making the later levels the kind of hair pulling, stressful sequences that you'd expect from a puzzle game. The controls don't add to the difficulty at all, as there's practically no way to mess up. On the Playstation 4, the controls are simply X to shoot, O to switch marbles and left stick to aim. Have I mentioned the word simple yet? 

The controls, difficulty curve and powerups all add up to an addicting game that really should be out of place on a next gen console, but simply isn't.


Still, even after seeing the graphical quality of the likes of Infamous: Second Son and Killzone: Shadow Fall, Sparkle 2 still looks beautiful next to them. Hand-painted ground textures, shiny marbles and dazzling special effects are what's on offer at Sparkle 2's house, and the soundtrack is relaxing and soothing, a far cry from the pulse-raising levels later on in the game.

You may think that after the 90 levels of the campaign, Sparkle 2 is just a worthless couple of gigabytes rotting in your hard drive, but the Survival and Challenge modes add more of the life-ruining gameplay that made you buy Sparkle 2 in the first place, plus Hard and Nightmare modes being added after you complete the campaign.


THE VERDICT
Sparkle 2 should be a throwaway mobile game ported to consoles that's nothing special. Somehow, just like 10tons did with King Oddball, Sparkle 2 is an addicting little game that uses the PS4's hardware to create beautiful hand painted worlds that seem perfect for a little marble massacre. With a cute little story, soothing soundtrack and long replayability, Sparkle 2 has transitioned from mobile to console beautifully. Roll on, 10tons.

7/10
Addictive Gameplay
                                                                                                        Can be too easy at times
Long Replayability
                                                                                                        Powerups lack creativity
Soothing Atmosphere

Cheers to Jaako Maaniemi from 10tons for sending us a PS4 review code!

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