Sparkle 2 – As We Play

Platform: Playstation 4 / Playstation Vita

Version: 1.01

Sparkle 2 is a Match-3 puzzle game. It’s fair to say this is a genre that hasn’t exactly been neglected recently, and it’s one that’s proven particularly popular with the likes of Zuma, and numerous other examples on smartphone and tablet. In fact, Sparkle 2 did originate on iOS and Android, but has now stretched its wings as a cross-buy offering on PS4 and PS Vita.

I was lucky enough to be able to test both versions, and it’s fair to say that the conversion to both platforms has been handled both differently, and well. In terms of how Sparkle 2 plays, it takes more than a little inspiration from the aforementioned Zuma games, tasking you with matching 3 or more coloured orbs in a snaking line before that line reaches a hole which means game over. Combos are all important, as getting three matches in a row will give you a power up to help clear the level, and as such, you can initially swap between two orbs to try and keep your combo going.

The main game is a story mode which takes you through around 100 levels while collecting five keys to escape the world you find yourself in. This doesn’t really add much to proceedings in all honesty, but just about serves to mark your progress. Progression through this mode also unlocks power ups, ultimately allowing a selection of four which changes things up in an interesting way to keep level progression from becoming too stale. Two further game modes, survival and challenge, are also unlocked as you progress, and completing story mode will unlock higher difficulty levels.

In terms of how it plays on the different platforms, this is much as you would probably expect. On PS4, you use the left analogue stick to select the direction to fire your orb, and X to fire it. On Vita however, this plays more as it presumably does on phones and tablets, with all controls being designed for touch screen. Touch where you want an orb to go and off it flies. You can also touch the launcher to switch orbs. Overall, I actually found myself preferring the Vita control scheme.

Skill is still needed to judge the speed of the chain of orbs moving against the speed your orb will be fired, but the touch controls take away the higher difficulty of getting the direction right on an analogue stick. To compensate, on PS4, if you hold down X, the direction your orb will take is highlighted, but this just didn’t work as well for me.

In fact, while not wanting to dredge up a phrase I’ve seen used rather too much lately (and often in my opinion for games you absolutely should play); this really isn’t the sort of game I particularly want to play on PS4. Not only does it play better on Vita, Sparkle 2 is just a better fit for on-the-go gaming. Most levels take one or two minutes at most to complete, and there’s no benefit to playing it on a large screen either. If you do fancy this sort of game on PS4, though, while the controls aren’t as intuitive as the touch screen equivalent, they certainly aren’t bad, and won’t stop you enjoying the game.

All-in-all, given you get two versions – assuming you have a PS4 and Vita – this is a pretty generous package and kept me merrily puzzling away for a good few hours. I rarely felt frustrated while playing and the difficulty increases in a way that challenges, but also keeps you wanting to play on.

If I have any criticism here, though, it’s with the challenge mode. To me, this is an opportunity to play around with the formula a little, and give you a limited number of orbs perhaps – specific power-ups – that kind of thing. Instead, from what I have played, you just go through the same levels you’ve already played once before in story mode, and in three levels of increasing difficulty. Since that is more or less what you do in the main game anyway, this feels like a somewhat cheap and artificial extension of the core game to increase value for money.

That aside though, there’s much to praise with Sparkle 2. The graphics, in particular, shine on both platforms, with some particularly lovely effects on PS4, although it’s unlikely such a game is particularly stretching either system. The core gameplay is well established and fun, while power ups and unlocks keep you going and keep things interesting.

The Good Stuff

  • Great looks
  • Enjoyable challenge
  • Some clever additions to a well-trodden formula

The Bad Stuff

  • More could, and should, have been made of challenge mode
  • Story itself feels somewhat superfluous

Final Analysis

If you fancy a puzzle game in the Match-3 genre, you can’t really go wrong with Sparkle 2. It’s fun, challenging, and while some of the content could perhaps have been a little more imaginative, there’s plenty to keep you playing for a good few hours. As it’s cross-buy, you get to play on the go and at home too, even if the PS4 version is perhaps not quite as enjoyable as its handheld sibling.

Technical Competency – 8/10

Graphic Quality – 9/10

Sound Quality – 8/10

Network Stability – NA

Overall 8.5/10

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