A copycat that doesn’t copy enough.
I’ve said it before in both written and podcast form, but generally speaking my wife has zero interest in video games. One of the rare exceptions was Zuma (and Zuma’s Revenge!), which locked us into a tense, controller passing battle for supremacy and bragging rights. Sparkle 2 presented us with the prospect of a new battlefield on which to wage war, but that conflict fizzled quickly. While the core game play is fine, the game misses every opportunity to engage players, and is ultimately disappointing.
Sparkle 2 is a variation on the seemingly eternal match three concept. A chain of colored balls rolls toward one or more holes in the ground, and the player fires balls into the chain to make matches, removing those balls and preventing the chain from getting to the hole. Once a certain number of matches have been made, the chain ends and the player moves on to the next stage.
Platforms: PS4, PS Vita
Multiplayer: Not even a little
While the game play in Sparkle borrows HEAVILY from Zuma, there are some fun distinguishing features. Items are available, but rather than being random are awarded for every three consecutive matches. In addition to some fairly standard ones I got items that would shoot fire from my ball launcher, or shoot a cloud changing all of the balls within its reach to a certain color. I could also swap my item for the next ball in the launcher, effectively holding it for later, which was cool.
The game also features enchantments, which can be unlocked through level progression and applied to the launcher. Enchantments are arranged into groups, allowing me to pick one from each group to customize the game somewhat. Progression is one thing Sparkle 2 really nails – whether an enchantment or an additional game mode, finishing a level always moved me closer to unlocking something, which provided some motivation.
Unfortunately, while the base game play is solid, the designers seemed to think that alone was enough. Sparkle 2 lacks any sort of scoring system, and the game suffers greatly for it. Make a sweet six chain combo shot? Meaningless. Squeeze a ball through a tiny gap to make a match? Doesn’t matter. Finish a level in an insanely short time? No one but you will ever know.
The lack of scoring means that there is no reward for playing the game well. As long as the level was completed, whether I did it fast or slow, with simple matches or mega combos made no difference. In games like this leader boards and records (mine or other’s) are a huge part of the experience and replay value, and their absence leaves a giant hole. What should have kept us occupied for hours barely held our interest. What’s the point of running a race if nobody’s keeping time?
In addition to the main game there are survival and challenge modes. In survival I had to keep up with an unending chain of balls to earn up to five stars, which were used to unlock subsequent levels. In challenge mode I had to unlock levels by completing the previous level on three different difficulties – in a row. The levels in Sparkle 2 already feel like they’re all derived from a few basic templates, and making me play the same level repeatedly certainly didn’t help.
For the $8 price tag, the game includes both the PS4 and Vita versions. It’s a nice gesture, but I can’t imagine why I would need both of them – there is no cross save, so I would just be playing the same game twice. The Vita version is identical (although a shade darker), and has the benefit of touch controls over the occasionally grindy control stick movement of the console version.
On a purely functional level Sparkle 2 is fine, but it lacks features that are not only standard for its genre, but that provide the biggest reasons to play. It feels like standing in an arcade playing pinball with friends, only there’s no score and you’re just doing it because you like hitting flippers. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the core concept, but it’s not one that holds up on its own.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on PlayStation 4.