Addicting & Impersonal – ‘Sparkle Unleashed’ Review

You’ve played a game like it before, but that doesn’t stop Sparkle from being a respectable casual title worth playing

Lets start this review off with a bit of honesty. When I first booted up Sparkle Unleashed I thought I was diving into a generic clone of yesteryear’s casual games. And in a lot of ways, my surface judgement was fair. Unleashed isn’t a bad game (it’s actually quite good) but I quickly found myself in love with the addicting gameplay and utterly disappointed by the lack of personality the title offered. When the genre is packed with unique, fun takes on character and level design, I couldn’t help but feel let down by the shallow depth the game offered. Time for a break down.

Gameplay

Whether you consider yourself an Angry Birds-esque casual or a “hardcore” gamer, you’ll feel right at home in the game’s familiar design.

The core of Sparkle Unleashed is incredibly simple: move the stick to the left and right to aim your orb launcher, fire the ball at matching colored orbs and if there are three or more of the same color, they’ll disappear and make more room on the game board. As you eliminate orbs, various power ups that you unlock via upgrades menu will offer gameplay variants. There are abilities that will reverse the orbs direction, abilities to blow up large chunks of the game board, and even one ability that can freeze part of the track the orbs move along. These gameplay variants happen frequently and offer fresh takes on what is otherwise old hat game design. As I played this title, I couldn’t help but be struck by two very different view points. One, the game is pretty unoriginal and only makes subtle improvements to predecessors – and two, the game does well to create suspense while also keeping the player engage in “one more level” game design. In short, Sparkle Unleashed may be unimaginative in concept, delivery and design, but I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t still drawn to this little indie title.

An example of one of the game's many special abilities
An example of one of the game’s many special abilities

Building on that, I do wish there were more things in the title that changed the way you play the game entirely. Although they are not perfect parallels, in Peggle 2, for example, there are a half dozen characters that all have distinct power ups that offer a completely different experience than the others. I wish that Unleashed dabbled in that type of gameplay modification as well. Despite that desire for a bit more freshness, what’s offered in this modestly priced indie title was more than satisfying.

Graphics, Audio & Performance

From a visual standpoint, Sparkle Unleashed is pretty normal. Sure, the game has a nice coat of shine to it that is pleasing to the eye, but there isn’t anything here that we haven’t already seen done before. In fact, I would argue that because the design is pretty weak, there isn’t a ton of personality to the game. I hate to keep referencing other similar titles, but games like Peggle or Zuma before it all had distinct visual designs and personality that made them feel unique from one another. I wish I could have seen a little more life from a design perspective. There’s nothing offensive or displeasing here, but there also isn’t anything that will blow your socks off, either.

Even the (expansive) world map lacks the visual flair I am used to
Even the (expansive) world map lacks the visual flair I was hoping for

As far as audio goes, I would say Sparkle is serviceable. At some points, the game feels like it aims for a jungle music vibe while other times branching into the realm of whimsical Peggle. The musical inconsistencies feel a bit jarring at first, but once I got into the undeniably addictive gameplay, the music no longer bothered me. Besides that, the game’s effects all sound distinct and satisfying and don’t merit praise or criticism from me.

As far as performance goes, the game played exceptionally on my Xbox One review copy. I never once noticed framerate hiccups or anything else that would raise red flags. The game does feature frequent load screens but they’re incredibly brief, so there are no real complaints from me in that regard. Ultimately, I’d say it performed perfectly as any game should.

The Verdict

As I’ve mentioned, Unleashed works really well as a title that improves on other game’s mistakes in the past. This is a great, addicting and engaging title that has more than enough content to be worth your time if you enjoy casual games from time to time – I just really wish it did more to show superiority to similar games.

With a modest asking price on both PS4 an Xbox One, I can’t recommend this game enough to fans of the genre. It is one of the most polished games around for that audience, it just might lack the personality that many of us are accustomed to from indie titles.

Sparkle Unleashed is available now on Xbox One and PS4!

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