Match-three puzzle games have been around for as long as I can remember. It’s hard to argue against the sheer satisfaction that happens in your brain when you make tiles, spheres, or blocks disappear. Sparkle Unleashed capitalizes on that formula by giving us a very familiar experience. If you’ve played games like Zuma or Luxor, then you’ll feel right at home with this iteration. It may not shake up the puzzle genre in terms of originality, but it brings enough new ideas to the table to make fans of the genre take notice.
In Sparkle Unleashed, you control a shooter at the bottom of the screen that only moves horizontally. The shooter fires different colored marbles straight up towards the top of the screen. The playing field is comprised of one or two “tracks”, each with a starting point and an end point. A a parade of marbles rolls from one end to the other, and your job is to destroy the entire train before too many marbles make it to the end of the track. To destroy marbles, you must fire ones from your shooter towards others of like color. If three or more match, they disappear.
Sounds simple enough, right? On the surface, it is. But every few levels, the game throws some new mechanic at you to keep things interesting. For instance, your train may start including colorless boulders that can only be destroyed by matching marbles next to them. some marbles may be wrapped in a chain that have to be matched twice in order to be destroyed. This level of progression makes it interesting just to see what challenges you must master in order to proceed.
On top of the fresh puzzle mechanics, you also have a selection of power-ups at your disposal. You start with only a handful of different ones, but can add to a skill tree as you make your way through the game. Random power-ups appear in the playing field, and if you shoot them, you gain a new ability. These abilities may let you shoot fireballs to destroy marbles, slow time, or even reverse the flow of marbles temporarily. These powers get exponentially more effective the further down the skill tree you go. This almost adds an RPG element to a puzzle game that keeps the game fresh from beginning to end.
“Sparkle Unleashed” Final Verdict
If you’re a fan of Luxor and Zuma, there’s no reason you won’t enjoy this refined version of those games. It’s very simple to pick up, but ramps up its difficulty to offer a challenge to experienced players as well. There’s not a lot new here, but there’s plenty to give newcomers and seasoned pros alike something to enjoy. Having a game like this on the Switch (where I played it) is particularly nice, as it’s perfect for on-the-go play sessions.
“Sparkle Unleashed” is currently available for the Switch, Xbox One, PS4, PC, Mac, PS3, iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. This review was based on a Nintendo Switch review copy provided to The Gaming Outsider by developer 10tons.