Sparkle Unleashed, seen previously on PC and Xbox, brings its match-three puzzle gaming to the Nintendo Switch. Similar in design and aesthetics to PopCap’s Zuma, I wanted to cry foul against 10tons for blatantly copying the design of a successful game. But you know what? It has been a long time since I played a match-three game and I found this to be a perfectly acceptable imitation. And until PopCap brings its catalog to the Switch, I see no reason to not let yourself have a good time with this charming puzzle game.
Oddly enough, Sparkle Unleashed uses a story as a framing device for simple, oft-copied gameplay. The story isn’t integral to the gameplay like, say, in Puzzle Quest, so there’s no need to go over it with any level of detail. All you really need to know is that you’ll travel across a fantasy landscape, completing over 100 hundred levels of Zuma-esque match-three gaming goodness. There’s not a whole lot more to say about the game that Johnathan Paris didn’t already discuss in his review of the game back in 2015. Each stage has you shooting multi-colored gems at slow-moving chains made up with more multi-colored gems that travel along a sinuous path towards a small black abyss (which spells game over if a gem falls into it). Clearing out all the chains lets you advance to the next stage where you get to do it all again.
There’s a nice progression of difficulty as you move from one level to the next. Instead of one chain, you’ll have to manage to run along different paths. You’ll then have to contend with special gems that require a little extra effort or special conditions to remove them from the field (for example, a cracked gem can only be destroyed by matching like-colored gems adjacent to its position). Unlockable power-ups do a great job of leveling the playing field and reducing stress. There are six power-ups that are unlocked by reaching special braziers situated between four or more levels. These special items offer one-use abilities that can push chains backward, turn gems into specific colors, and destroy those that fall within the path of a multi-shot fireball. Earning additional keys unlocks more powerful versions of the power-ups, making them a lot more effective for later, more difficult levels.
Sparkle Unleashed is a competent, inoffensive homage to a classic puzzle game that’s a great addition to the Nintendo Switch library. You can play it with the Joy-Cons (either attached to the tablet or the controller peripheral) or just use your finger on the tablet’s screen - which makes it a fun thing to do while on a train or car ride. I prefer the Joy-Cons simply for the precision afforded by the analog sticks. With so many levels to get through, this isn’t something you’ll want to play for more than an hour per sitting. I played it a little over two hours and got burned out. Even though the challenge increases, the truth is that each level plays exactly the same. There are a few “survival” levels where you simply play the regular game under the watchful eye of a ticking clock. This could be a nice break from the norm but the fact of the matter is that survival levels play exactly like regular levels.
With Sparkle Unleashed, what you see is what you get. This is the sort of video game that is a nice way to spend a moment or two waiting for the bus or taking a break from another game. Taken in small doses, the game has a lot of charm that’s bolstered by lovely, colorful graphics and a better than average soundtrack. It’s an uncomplicated piece of software that doubles down on simple and addictive gameplay.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.