Not every game needs to be a Witcher III or a Dragon Age: Inquisition. Sometimes, I just don’t feel like managing my inventory, weighing ability point allocations, or slogging through fetch quests — I just want something to dive into and not worry about any long-term consequences or moral dilemmas. Sparkle Unleashed does a solid job of giving me exactly what I want. Namely, an accessible and instantly addicting game to enjoy in spurts.
Sparkle is incredibly simple to pick up. It’s a variant on the whole match-three genre and it deviates from its own formula that the previous two games established. Instead of being planted in one spot and trying to match three colored orbs in order to stop the “snake” from going into the hole, you’re positioned on the bottom of the screen and move horizontally. There’s no aiming cursor, and while that may sound like a hindrance, Sparkle Unleashed‘s accuracy doesn’t take a hit at all.
With every missed shot, I never once blamed the game or its lack of a crosshair. Shooting the orbs felt natural and having the ability to zip around the map horizontally lends to the sense of urgency you’ll have in trying to stop the orbs from going into the hole. Twists, turns, tunnels, and more help orb trails from becoming too repetitive and makes deciding shots more interesting.
Power-ups (which are earned for getting multiple matches in a row) also help alleviate redundancy. You have flaming butterflies that immediately chop off the head of the orb snake, an explosion ball that plays wrecking ball through any orb line, and much more. It’s a nice incentive to get multiple matches in a row, but it could also cost you, as sometimes power-up greed kicks in and you’ll find yourself taking risk-heavy shots…or that could just be me.
There are two game modes here and they come in the form of a main campaign and a survival mode. To anyone that’s played any of King’s games on their phones (you know, those games that always end in “Saga”), you’ll instantly recognize how the campaign “map” is set up. To keep things a little more interesting, though, you have braziers that will be lit after a certain amount of levels are cleared. Each time a brazier lights up, you get to upgrade one of your power-ups, which greatly adds to the addictiveness.
Survival is pretty self-explanatory. You’re tasked with holding back a never-ending line of orbs for as long as possible. It’s a fun challenge to dip your toe in a couple times, but if you’re like me, you’ll get tired of it really fast unless you have some friends over for some fun shit-talking, pass-the-controller competition.
When it comes to presentation, well, Sparkle started life out as a mobile game, so take from that what you will. That being said, its aesthetic is simplistic (if not a wee bit boring) and the music becomes insanely repetitive. While the orb trails them selves vary, the same can’t be said for the forest-heavy backdrops. They look solid but can become fatiguing to see over and over. Then again, this is a title that screams mobile and bite-sized gaming, so it’s not entirely fair to expect much from its audio/visual package. At least it looks better than its predecessors.
Sparkle Unleashed comes out at a perfect time (for me, anyways). After dragging my war-torn boots through the battlefields of The Witcher III and the grimy, goth-soaked, pseudo-Euro towns of Bloodborne, it’s nice knowing that I have a quality dip-in-and-dip-out kind of game on my hard drive.
This review is based on the Xbox One version.
Sparkle Unleashed is a solid yet un-flashy puzzle game, and that's all I'll ever need or want from it.