Sparkle Unleashed is basically Zuma, with a slight twist on mechanics. I want to open with this sentence because you only have to look at a screenshot of Sparkle Unleashed to see what you’ll get when you click start. There are coloured balls that need to be shot at other coloured balls, making them disappear when more than three meet. It’s simple, it’s tried and tested, it’s been done. That’s not to take away from this title too much – there are power-ups that change the game slightly and there’s a story mode to play through, too.
Of course, Zuma is rather old now, so Sparkle Unleashed needs to bring something new to the table. How about those power-ups? How about the famous three-star rating often found in mobile gaming nowadays? Levelling up? They can’t just get rid of the frog idol and claim that it’s something fresh. In fact, although this is a game type that is hard to get wrong, the developers haven’t actually bettered any previous iterations. However, rather than rotating a statue to fire balls, you’re now limited to one side of the field. I’m not entirely sure why this is the case as it adds nothing interesting.
It’s very hard to get excited about a game I’ve played a hundred times in a hundred many ways. There’s only so many times I can pop coloured balls, and the initial thrill of Zuma – shooting through small gaps, watching combos fall into place and increasing speed – was lost a few years ago. There’s nothing really wrong with Sparkle Unleashed. It does the job it sets out to do. It provides small puzzling elements that pit you against the clock; it has bright visuals which draw the eye and the soundtrack will have toes tapping while balls are flying.
It’s only £6.99 and it will pass some time at the bus stop, on the toilet or while you wait for something else to download. It’s a great game for kids who want to try something fast paced with puzzle elements and the story mode may appeal to some – it’s very loose and plays on the idea of archaeological exploration, a darkness taking over the world, etc. You kind of upgrade at the end of each level, which unlocks the aforementioned power-up moves; You can freeze the ball movement, explode groups of them.
There’s variation in the areas as winding paths and multiple lines of marbles are introduced. There’s an extra hard difficulty if you want a challenge or to grind your teeth into dust with frustration. It’s not a bad game at all, it just does what it says on the tin and while that’s fine, it doesn’t stand up above other games – many of which flood the Nintendo eShop each week – to steal your attention away.