Sparkle 2

Sparkle 2 from 10tons is a color matching puzzle game that attempts to guide players along with a well voiced narrative, and is available for download on the PlayStation Network. Priced at just eight dollars, taking the plunge on Sparkle 2 won’t set you back too much, but ultimately, the experience fills more of a time-killing role rather than that of a must play title. Sparkle 2 shines with quick and simple gameplay, powerups, and an interesting presentation of the narrative. However, just about everything else about the game is repetitive, boring, and all too similar. With over ninety levels, it takes about seven hours to complete the story mode that the game offers. Sparkle 2 also features multiple difficulty levels which encourages players to travel through the world once again, this time with a greater challenge. Unless you’re looking for a portable time killer on your Vita, then Sparkle 2 will most likely be a title to skip over.

Sparkle 2 is based around a simple concept: Match colored marbles together to make them disappear. Do this enough, and you’ll complete the level. There are over ninety levels in Sparkle 2, but the experience doesn’t really evolve in a meaningful way that enhances the gameplay. Sparkle 2 isn’t exactly a bad game by any means, but it’s a title that offers no gameplay progression outside of some abilities, which largely serve the same role for players. Outside of the speed and number of marbles, the very first level is extremely similar to the last level. Sparkle 2 introduces all that it offers in the first level, and doesn’t really build upon the idea. Those that played Zuma on PC over ten years ago will find that Sparkle 2 feels the same. The biggest difference between the two is the story which is used to lead players through the levels.

Players must collect five keys as they travel around the world, then all too quickly, the game abruptly ends and players are asked if they want to play through again but with a greater difficulty setting. This made the narrative a risky choice. It separates the title from other puzzle games, which seem very bare boned in comparison, but at the same time, it also doesn’t feel like it has any significant impact on the title. The presentation of the story, when it’s actually present, is pretty engaging and features fully voiced story segments. The narration reminded me lightly of The Lord of the Rings, focusing on the essence of the journey and the players which are part of it. But overall, the story mode isn’t enough to keep players fully invested. By the end, it felt like this portion could have easily been left out of the game and the experience would have remained the same.

Matching colored gems and marbles in video games has become incredibly popular over the past several years. Non-traditional gamers, who would enjoy something like the Nintendo Wii or Candy Crush, have shown the industry that pick up and play titles have a market. The only issue with these titles is that it’s hard to determine their value. Sure, certain games might be played by millions, but the bulk of those were free downloads. Generally speaking, people want a simple and fun experience on a portable device, but don’t want to pay much, if any, for the game. Dedicated gamers on the other hand, will most likely just skip over those games on principle alone.

This puts Sparkle 2 in an odd position. 10tons is charging eight dollars for the game, which eliminates the casual crowd automatically, and the type of gameplay prevents most other gamers from giving it a second glance. Matching the marbles has its moments of addiction, but after so many levels offering the exact same thing, the title starts to become boring and grind heavy. There were portions of the game where I had to talk myself into finishing the story mode. The abilities that are unlocked as the game progresses offer different functions, but since the game doesn’t really require any strategy, they pretty much all blend together. You can launch missiles, cause explosions, and prevent certain colored marbles from appearing on the level altogether. But even in the later levels, all of the gameplay elements run together and the game never really progresses or adds anything meaningful.

Every week, new content releases on the PlayStation Network, and sometimes it’s nice having an easy to play title during life’s numerous layovers. Sparkle 2 has some fun moments in the form of color matching addiction, but little else makes the title worth playing. Eight dollars won’t break most wallets, but there are plenty of other games on the Vita more worthy of your time.