Sparkle 2 (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 18.11.2017

Review for Sparkle 2 on Nintendo Switch

Be it actionloop by Mitchell Corporation (or Puzz Loop / Ballistic as it was known outside of Japan), or Zuma, the game that popularised it even further around the world under a controversy of plagiarism of the original Puzz Loop concept... people have already encountered at least one game of that type, whatever clone it was if it wasn't any of the originals. It's been covered, it has inspired, and it has been expanded upon to no end over the last two decades or so, right up to web browsers and smart devices, even. Nintendo Switch being a good fit for receiving ports of titles that would have otherwise not been released outside the realm of smart devices, it should not come as a surprise that one of the most popular concepts for a puzzler would be brought over… and here it is, in the form of Sparkle 2 by 10ton.

For those out there who absolutely have no idea what the concept is about, it is very simple: a long chain of coloured balls is headed towards a hole along a narrow path. The player wants to avoid them reaching that hole at all costs because that would signal the end of the game, so it's up to him or her to use a launcher to fire coloured balls to that chain, where launched balls will squeeze themselves into the long line. Matching up three or more of the same colour will make them disappear, preventing them from ever reaching the hole. In order to make matches easier, unwanted balls may be discarded by throwing them out of the screen, at least if the path surrounding the launch isn't already filled, as there has to be an open spot for the player to be able to discard any undesirables, so keeping on top of things is of the utmost importance.

This is it; this is the whole extent of the basic concept of this type of puzzler, which, like others of its kind, will prove irresistibly addictive to the right audience. Then each game in the same genre throws in some more variations on the concept or expansions. Sparkle 2 here is no exception, of course. On some levels, the player has to tackle not just one path of travelling balls, but two, or even up to three at the same time, to make things more complicated. Indeed, a case where balls threaten to fall in just a few seconds into three different holes can be just as stressful as trying to salvage the situation in a game of Tetris where the stack of Tetriminos is about to reach the top of the screen. It is that type of experience that will pump up the adrenaline in the right kind of people, so it definitely has its fans, as expected. In Sparkle 2, bonuses are often dropped upon popping balls, which once grabbed by throwing a ball at them, before they disappear, will grant a temporary super power.

Screenshot for Sparkle 2 on Nintendo Switch

These include being able to blast fireballs at the coloured balls to wipe them out or make something happen on the playing field, like raining fire and brimstone, or fireflies flying about and changing the colours of the balls so that matches can be made more easily. In tight spots, using these bonuses to their full extent is practically compulsory towards the end.

The main mode is the campaign, telling a very basic story of an unnamed hero or heroine travelling a mysterious land in search of five magical keys, but the tale really doesn't do much more than give a pretext for having the player travel a map comprised of 92 levels towards a destination and giving an ending to reach. The theme itself of magic, accompanied by some nice aesthetics and a pleasantly relaxing soundtrack, taking on some more dramatic orchestral tones when balls are about to fall in the hole and so on and so forth, really gives this a charm of its own. These 92 levels are not, sadly, all unique, however. There are only 37 unique ones and, therefore, some path patterns will be reused multiple times with just the amount of balls, colours, or the speed at which they travel being increased each time so as to make them more difficult, which is a bit unfortunate, although understandable as there aren't a million possible paths that could be drawn before each and every one of them feels about the same. Still, more variety would have been welcomed.

In the campaign, Sparkle 2 also adds to the mix a theme of enchantments, applied to the orb slinger that will add extra effects, such as throwing balls faster, which makes aiming for a spot into a moving line of balls a bit easier since the line doesn't have as much time to move between the moment the ball is launched and when it actually reaches the chain. Other enchantments include affecting the amount of bonuses that appear, or when they do, others will make the balls move slower, or will remove a dedicated type of colour but make orbs move faster as a trade-off, and so on...

Screenshot for Sparkle 2 on Nintendo Switch

16 types of enchantments can be unlocked and up to four can be equipped as more slots unlock over the course of the story, which lasts no more than about five hours in a straight romp through it, with a few levels failed along the way. The enchantments equipped in the campaign carry over when playing through the other different modes that unlock as progress is made through the story. These include higher difficulty levels for the story mode: hard and nightmare... a survival mode, which is basically an endless mode where the player must survive for as long as he or she can on 32 available patterns... a challenge mode, which is basically replaying through 24 of the patterns, each of them on three different difficulty levels to master each of them, and, finally, the last mode - called Book of Cataclysms - offers 20 highly challenging levels made from the hardest patterns possible on the highest difficulty imaginable.

Completing all of them, plus achieving certain feats, will grant achievements. There are 14 of them, which will be a good indicator of how much the player has completed the game or not, since to obtain all of them, gamers must essentially have completed everything that can be done. The same menu also offers a bunch of statistics on how much time it has been played, how many matches were made, and so on and so forth, allowing people to compare with their neighbour how good they have been doing. At the end of the day, although unlocking everything will be very repetitive in the long run, it helps the longevity. Most puzzle games are repetitive by nature anyway, and are still very addictive, and this one proves to be just as addictive as any other.

There is something to be said about playing this type of game on someone's huge panel TV in the living room, though. It is not typically the type of experience anyone looks for to be played on a huge screen, except for people who absolutely love this genre but have trouble reading even comfortably large handheld screens like that of the Switch.

Screenshot for Sparkle 2 on Nintendo Switch

In such cases, then, the Switch version will have that advantage of being both a home and handheld console at the same time! Speaking of people with eye sight issues, being conscious of colour-blind people, this one even has the option to add a distinct pattern inside each colour of ball to help differentiate them better at a glance, although the differences are very subtle, but at least the option is there for those that need it. Whether or not this helps any colour-blind gamers was not tested, but those concerned will at least know that some effort has been made to bring the experience to them.

As it is, though, whether with eye sight problems or not, the game is really the type of experience best enjoyed in the palm of one's hand, like most puzzlers. In fact, that's where it plays best thanks to the utilisation of the control screen. Indeed, even navigating the menus using the controllers or aiming accurately with the joysticks is kind of tricky, whereas pointing with the finger on the control stick the exact spot where the player wants the ball to fit in the chain will send the ball flying exactly onto that spot instead of trying to blindly aim for it with the joysticks from a distance, Puzzle Bobble-style. A bunch of dots indicating the aim, or a laser or something, would have helped greatly with controls using controllers. On the other hand, swapping the ball in the launcher for the next one by tapping the launcher itself on the touch screen instead of aiming, or vice versa, can be tricky when trying to aim at balls sitting right next to the launcher. That swapping action is best performed with the Y button on the controller in such cases but, ultimately, the most comfortable way to play is on the handheld, with both Joy-Con detached from the system, then turned into a glorified tablet. This is where the experience really proves most enjoyable.

Screenshot for Sparkle 2 on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

What else can be said about Sparkle 2? It's the concept of Puzz Loop/Zuma, on the Nintendo Switch, with a few unique elements thrown into the mix to make it be enough of its own thing to feel appealing to fans of the genre, and it plays best as a handheld title via the touch screen of the system. It will appease the hunger for this type of experience on the Switch without any doubt, but should not be expected to reconcile its detractors with the concept, however, as it remains pretty close to its source material. Price is perhaps just a bit on the steep side for newcomers, but for anyone who likes a good challenge of that type, with the amount of tough as nails challenges to tackle in here to complete absolutely everything, it's a fair price.

Developer

10tons

Publisher

10tons

Genre

Puzzle

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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