As a portable gaming platform, Nintendo’s Switch has already taken huge games like Skyrim and squeezed them onto a small screen, bringing expansive worlds and epic quests to us as we venture out on our own adventures. At the same time, an increasing number of titles are making the jump onto the big screen on the Switch. 10 Ton’s Sparkle Unleashed follows this trend, bringing the franchise to Nintendo’s mobile powerhouse. This is our Sparkle Unleashed review for the Nintendo Switch.
Sparkle Unleashed is yet another entry in the long-running Sparkle franchise and is already available on Steam, Xbox, iOS, and Android stores. Generally well received across mobile platforms, it challenges players to over 100 levels of match-three gameplay, launching spherical marbles across the screen in an effort to eliminate a train of encroaching orbs. Yet, at $7.99 is it really worth picking up?
Sparkle Unleashed’s core gameplay concept is fundamentally derived from Sparkle. Originally unveiled some years ago, the Sparkle franchise is a simple test of skill and strategy. This incarnation of the game takes place on a variety of maps, each containing a series of winding paths. Trails of colored orbs snake along these maps towards a series of ominous potholes, and their impending doom. By launching various additional spheres across the screen players are challenged to create concurrent lines of color. By slotting orbs into the correct location will disintegrate the offending objects before they reach these potholes. Ultimately the goal of Sparkle Unleashed is to repeat this process until no marbles remain on a given map or fall into oblivion. If you have ever played Tetris, Bejewelled, or indeed any match three game then this concept should not cause any concern. These simple mechanics and clarity of purpose allow almost anybody to just pick up Sparkle Unleashed. It makes for a great start. It also means it needs to work very hard to distinguish itself from the crowd.
One of the most obvious changes made to Sparkle for its Switch interpretation is the control interface. Unlike Sparkle 2, Unleashed does not allow players to rotate their marble launcher. Instead, a static launcher can be moved along the bottom of the screen, firing marbles vertically. The Joycon controllers allow players to move this sphere across the bottom of the screen using the directional controls and fire with a single button press. 10 Ton has not tired to overcomplicate things and even managed to include the option to invert the mapping for left-handed players. It acts as a nice addition to the franchises first appearance on the Switch.
As a Nintendo Switch title, Sparkle Unleashed does manage to retain an almost addictive quality that seems prevalent across multiple game modes. A set of survival maps challenge players to blast orbs off the screen for as long as possible, and a standard campaign mode is extensive at 108 levels. Each of these become increasingly complex as players progress. The campaign mode navigates through stages, each made up of several maps. New ideas are slowly fed into the core gameplay as this expands. Opening with just a single snaking line of spheres, these eventually multiply into crisscrossing lines, multiple paths, and increasing problematic shots. 10 Tons has judged the learning curve of Sparkle Unleashed very well. The rate at which these ideas are introduced allows competent players to swiftly push through to challenging content while allowing beginners to get acclimated to bursting balls.
For those of us who do need a bit of extra help with those early levels, Sparkle Unleashed includes a competent progression system. Campaign mode rewards players with keys for completing stages, these can be used to unlock a range of increasingly powerful special shots. This ranges from slowing down the inexorable crawl of doomed spheres, to rearranging the colors on screen. Triggered at random, when matching three or more spheres, these bonus shots are an invaluable aid. My only issue with this system is that this does feel somewhat limited, with 16 available upgrades.
The obviously limited progression model is endemic to my problems with Sparkle Unleashed. Despite a large number of levels, gameplay feels fairly derivative and somewhat repetitive. Like the games fantastic soundtrack, the gameplay can begin to feel like it is ceaselessly looping. The port onto the Nintendo Switch seems to have added little of real consequence to the game and, like all match three games, it struggles to be truly innovative. While 10 Tons has done a fantastic job moving this onto the Switch, the game has not evolved extensively. This feels like a port of a successful iOS and Android title, but it really did manage to grab my attention for longer than I really care to admit.
If you are looking for a ground-breaking, genre-defining game this is not it. If you are looking for an entertaining puzzle that demands swift reactions and just happens to be furiously addictive then Sparkle Unleashed is $7.99 and available on the Nintendo Game Store now.