To defeat the darkness sweeping the land, you must unleash the sparkle balls. I can’t say that with a straight face. Anyway, Sparkle Unleashed, a new puzzle indie for the Switch.
Contrary to what a Zuma-esque game would have you believe, there is an actual plot here. In some enchanted lands, darkness sweeps the land and basically turns it desolate. You, whatever you are in this universe, must harness the power of…something, maybe colored balls, to combat this darkness and restore light to the land. It’s incredibly barebones, but it’s also a Zuma clone, so you’d expect little story if anything. It’s harmless.
Sparkle Unleashed is a tile matching puzzle game borrowing from the aforementioned Zuma. Across each level, your objective is to shoot colored spheres onto a constantly moving track of spheres to slowly disintegrate it. Matching three or more of the same color makes the spheres disappear. This process is repeated as many times as the level demands for you to pass it. As with most Zuma clones, Sparkle Unleashed has a few additions to the tried and true formula. First is the powerup system. For every three color combinations racked up in quick succession, a powerup drops, which can be such things as a frost powerup to slow down the sphere chain or a fireball powerup which is thrown like a normal sphere, but outright destroys whatever sphere it touches regardless of color. More powerups are unlocked every few levels when you reach braziers, where you are given a choice of unlocking one more powerup. This adds a level of depth to the gameplay, as powerups can save you in a pinch when you really need it.
Level design also has its deviations so as to not make every stage the exact same fare. As you progress, paths start to wind more, add additional paths for you to manage, or have segments where spheres can’t hit the chain at all, so paying attention to whatever gimmick the level has is important, as the chain(s) will grow faster the further you get into the game. That said, Sparkle Unleashed isn’t that hard a puzzle game. The journey as a whole is reasonably comfortable and players of any skill level can pick it up and play, since there’s no serious critical thinking or dexterity required to advance. That might be a downside to those looking for a more hardcore puzzle experience, but Sparkle Unleashed delivers on gameplay nonetheless.
Aiming for a fantasy backdrop, Sparkle Unleashed does pull it off rather well for how limited it actually is. The backgrounds and decent musical accompaniment are clearly made with the fantastical, magical setting in mind, and it does fit for a Zuma-esque game, given that the original Zuma had a mythological theme to begin with. It’s a puzzle game running at a consistent framerate and with no technical problems as well, so Sparkle Unleashed certainly doesn’t disappoint in that department.
Sparkle Unleashed is a competently made and fun but ultimately run of the mill tile matching game. For eight dollars or your regional equivalent, you get a fairly lengthy campaign with additional modes such as survival levels and higher difficulty settings (Nightmare difficulty especially doing its best to live up to the title) to keep you busy. It’s a good investment for puzzle enthusiasts on a budget, mainly, since it’s a great looking and great playing puzzle game, but also costs less compared to, say, Puyo Puyo. It’s a worthy investment if nothing else on the eShop catches your eye.