[Disclosure: A review copy was provided for the contents of this article]
Featuring dozens upon dozens of levels, power-ups, several difficulties, and a survival mode, Sparkle Unleashed for the Nintendo Switch is a cheap little puzzle game for Nintendo’s little handheld console. I can most certainly say that the game is way more addictive than it has any right to be.
10Tons recently released the game for the Nintendo Switch on December 25th, 2017. An odd day to roll out a game when so many people are neck-deep in presents and good cheer, right? Well, for an indie company it makes sense given that there aren’t any major games releasing right now, and it’s best to throw out your game while all your competition have exhausted their resources. That’s pretty much what 10Tons did here with Sparkle Unleashed.
It was smart enough of a maneuver insofar that I had time to dive in periodically throughout the day, and then found myself having put in enough time to actually churn out a review. So here it is.
The game is an orb-shooting puzzler. A snake-row of orbs will roll out of a hole and attempt to roll into another hole on the opposite side of the screen. The small relics pushing the orbs need to be defeated, and in order to do so you have to clear all the orbs off the path by shooting and matching up three or more orbs in a row, like a typical match-3 puzzle game.
Seems easy enough, right? Well, the game starts off with single rows, with the orbs moving along at a steady pace. You’ll have access to some low-tier power-ups early on; but then the game will begin to ramp up the difficulty, and along with the difficulty you’ll be able to unlock new power-ups to increase your chances of survival.
If the relics push balls deep into the hole, it’s game over for you.
So in order to keep the balls out of the hole, you have to fight like a parent retaining their daughter’s virginity on prom night. This requires a lot of tactical field awareness and lots of paying attention to how fast and how far along the orbs are to their destination. As you match up more orbs and rack up combos, you’ll unlock more power-ups.
Smart play is rewarded; sloppy play is not.
Every so many levels you’ll move past a pyre where you’ll unlock a new ability. These abilities range from reversing the direction of the orbs, to blowing some of them up, to changing their colors.
Depending on your play-style and tactical preferences will determine which set of skills work best for you.
Before you get too comfortable, the game switches things up, introducing new orb types, such as the chained orbs, or giving players new stages to conquer that drastically alters how you can attack the orbs.
There’s some variety in the stage layouts, but after 15 or 20 stages they all begin to look the same. There are biomes that change the backgrounds, but ultimately you’re still trying to keep the relics from going balls deep into the hole.
While the concept is simple enough, it’s the addictive nature of the levels and the thrive to complete the game that makes so fun, despite it getting repetitive rather quickly.
The core game offers replayability in the form of higher difficulty settings once you beat it the first time, and there’s also a survival mode. You also get to keep all your upgrades and power-ups that you unlocked the first time around.
But for me, the incentive to keep playing was just how well the game worked with the Nintendo Switch while mobile. You can play with just one Joy-Con at a time, and it’s all intuitive enough to work with a very little learning curve required. And also given that the game is rather lo-fi, you can get in a handful of hours of gameplay while mobile, as opposed to the two hours or so that usually accompanies higher-end games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey.
There was obviously no stuttering or performance hiccups, whether playing in TV mode or portable, which is a good thing because this is one of those games where split-second timing is everything and frame-drops would kill it faster than Star Wars: The Last Jedi’s second week box office run. But then again, the graphics are pretty simple and like an upgraded version of Zuma.
The soundtrack reminded me of Disney’s Fantasia fused with the Nutcracker. The music is a whimsical collection of fantasy-oriented chamber music, obviously designed to get the neurons firing and your mindful muscles flexing as you attempt to strategically fire off the orbs and hope to make the match-3 connections.
While I did adore the relaxing soundtrack, I also couldn’t help but feel as if it was a little too repetitive at times. There’s only a handful of tracks, and it won’t be long before you’re listening to the same tunes over and over again as you attempt to trudge through the 60 different levels.
Overall, Sparkle Unleashed is a simple zen-like, match-3 puzzle game with a fantasy-oriented motif. You have more than 100 levels to beat’ new difficulty settings to unlock’ multiple power-ups to access such as freezing the board, reversing the board, or having fairies change the color of the orbs’ and there’s a survival mode for those of you who manage to beat the game multiple times over.
You get a lot of playability out of the game for $7.99, and it’s hard for me not to recommend it for puzzle enthusiasts. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the game, and the concept works, so if you’re really into puzzle games, and you have a Nintendo Switch with $8 to spare, maybe you should consider the option to…