Sparkle (iPhone) Review
Care to take another marble shooter for a spin?
When you review a lot of puzzle games, you tend to see a lot of clones. In this case, a quick review of Sparkle could simply state that it's a lot like Zuma or Luxor. At its core this would be a pretty accurate assessment, but there are few nuances to Sparkle that should factor into your decision of whether or not to buy another marble shooter for your collection or to make Sparkle your first.
For those of you not familiar with this type of game, here's how it works. The game is played on a board into which one or more grooves are cut that lead from the edges of the board to a hole in its center. Different colored marbles enter the board from an edge in groups and slowly roll towards that hole in the center. If a single marble makes it to that hole, you lose. To prevent this from happening you're given a marble shooter that sits at the center of the board and is continually loaded with a randomly colored marble. A marble can be fired into the snake of marbles making its way around the track and if a chain of three or more same-colored marbles is formed when your fired marble hits then that group of marbles is eliminated and those ahead of the gap either stop in place until the rest of the chain closes the gap or they slide back until they hit the next group of marbles behind them. Things are complicated by the fact that often the track includes turns and bends that allow one marble chain to shield another from your shooter or by multiple chains making their way simultaneously across the board. On the positive side, power-ups occasionally appear and if you use one of your marbles to hit one it will give you a boost such as a marble that will match any color or an explosion that takes out part of the marble chain. If you can eliminate all of the marbles in a level without a single one sinking into the hole, then you clear the level.
Sparkle takes advantage of the iPhone/iPod touch's touch screen by allowing you to tap to shoot a marble. Aiming is made easier by the fact that you can tap the target you'd like to hit rather than trying to rotate the launcher left and right to aim as in other flavors of this game. Sparkle also adds atmosphere and story to the game, which is bit of a rarity in this genre. In this case you're venturing into Crowberry Woods to free it from the evil that has befallen it. It's not exactly a particularly deep story, but the way it's tied into the game and its look and feel is refreshing. Another interesting aspect is the game's use of branching paths which lead to different sets of puzzle boards and the power-boosting amulets that are your reward from completing them. This adds a bit of a different replay value to the game, even though puzzle games by their nature are pretty much all replayable.
When you complete the quest portion of the game, you can play a challenge mode that, well, challenges you to complete the puzzles within a time limit and an endless mode in which you play until you lose. The game provides statistics on your gameplay, but oddly enough it doesn't provide a score for your efforts. There's also no support for OpenFeint, Facebook, or other score/achievement sharing networks.
I've played plenty of Zuma and Luxor before, but I still had fun with Sparkle. It felt fresh enough to not come off as just another marble-shooter clone, and the touch controls, which work quite well, add a new twist to the genre. If this is your sort of game, you'll probably be happy with Sparkle if you can live without a score at the end of a level. And if you're new to this type of game and enjoy reflex-based puzzle games, this is a good place to start.
Final Rating: 86%
Transmitted: 8/29/2014 6:00:20 AM