Do you remember the days when playing and collecting marbles was popular? No, we're not 100-years-old either, but even though times and technology have changed, Sparkle Unleashed has a familiar premise: you must arrange balls into order for personal satisfaction. The difference here is that your obsessive compulsive disorder isn't the sole thing at stake – after all, there are points, prizes, and – whisper it – Trophies up for grabs.
This is yet another PlayStation puzzler from productive Finnish outfit 10tons, and is the follow-up to the excellent Sparkle 2, which we reviewed last year. The title comes with two main modes: Story and Survival. The former presents you with a world map littered with levels, which you must complete in order to further your journey. Survival, however, throws you into an endless arena in which you must match up as many marbles as possible to keep the screen clean.
The game's perhaps best compared to Zuma, but this time you're controlling a launcher at the bottom of the stage, which can be moved left and right. Lines of balls will appear above this, and you'll need to try and match three or more of the same colour in order to clear them away. Often the aforementioned strings of circles will follow wavy paths, which will wrap around obstacles, such as rocks, tunnels, and logs. These make the levels more challenging, and add a layer of difficulty to an otherwise quite simplistic task. The ultimate goal is to prevent the marbles from reaching the gloomy holes of darkness which are situated at the end of every track.
Throughout the story mode you will be lighting up braziers, which augment you with the opportunity to unlock a new power-up. These power-ups provide you with the ability to do many wonderfully magical things, such as spawning butterflies that flutter out of your mysterious hole [This is starting to read like literotica – Ed] and more. The power-ups are a great addition, and will help you out of many sticky situations [Yeah, definitely literotica – Ed].
The visuals are nicely polished, with vibrant colours and a sparkling art style. As for the music, it's very soothing, but after playing over 50 levels with the same track repeating, it did start to cause us to lose our marbles.
It's an enjoyable enough experience, then, but despite the various mechanical changes, it doesn't really do a whole lot to improve upon its predecessors. With only two modes to play, there's not a whole lot to sink your gnashers into either, and it quickly becomes very samey. Far too often we'd load up a level with a strong sense of déjà-vu, which is an issue in a release that's essentially a one-trick pony.
Sparkle Unleashed is a solid puzzle game with a few new ideas – but not enough to truly feel fresh. We can't criticise the controls or gameplay here, but the feeling of familiarity that pervades the whole experience lets it down. If you want a timewaster to fill a few minutes here or there, then this is well worth a shot. Otherwise, you can give this one a miss.