Originality in the puzzle game genre is hard to come by in this day and age. It's tempting for developers to take a concept and try to improve on it, so does Sparkle 2 offer enough uniqueness to make it a worthwhile puzzler?
Why not start this review with a little history lesson? Back in 1998, a Japan-exclusive game called Puzz Loop came out. Five years later, PopCap released Zuma which basically took the exact same gameplay and added an Aztec theme. The developers of Puzz Loop accused PopCap of ripping them off and rightfully so. Over the years, many other Puzz Loop clones would pop up and unfortunately Sparkle is one of them. If you're unfamiliar with the formula, you basically rotate a launcher that shoots coloured balls at a track that perpetually moving balls travel down. As soon as you make a match with three or more of the same colour, they disappear. It gets interesting as you start to get massive chains when the train of balls collapses into itself. However, if you let the balls pile up and reach the end of the track then it's game over. Sparkle 2 is played exactly like this so if you're already familiar then you'll pick it up and play with no problem whatsoever.
Sparkle 2 provides some additional complexities that make its gameplay feel relatively fresh. As you progress through the 90 stage campaign, you'll unlock upgrades that enhance your abilities. With sixteen to uncover and four slots to equip them in, experimenting to optimize your abilities and make up for your shortcomings is a fun part of the challenge. Trust me; it's great to have an edge in some of the trickier stages. Of course, hardcore gamers can remove everything and see how their raw skills stack up if they so desire.
After you make it through the main campaign (which will take at least a few hours), you can play it again on two higher difficulty settings and master a few additional modes. Survival mode allows you to play any of the 32 stage layouts to see how long you can survive, Challenge mode consists of 24 extra levels with varying difficulties, and Cataclysm mode is made up of 20 incredibly difficult stages. It'll take a very long time to work your way through all of this content. Seeing as every single bit of completion is rewarding, filling it all out will be quite the journey. However, that all depends on your willingness to hang around for that long.
Although there are so many modes to play around in, you don't really do anything different to the main campaign. As a result, it all becomes boring after a while, so it's probably best to play it in short sessions between other games. When you consider the fact that Sparkle 2 in no way revolutionizes the Puzz Loop formula, the lack of variety in these additional modes is all the more noticeable.
Sparkle 2's presentation is by no means lacking yet it's nothing special either. Visually, you're treated to fetching artwork and easily distinguishable stage features. On the audio side, a triumphant orchestral score that'll be more at home in an epic film plays throughout. Overall, it'll keep you engaged yet there's no unique hook that sets it apart from similar experiences.
Sparkle 2 is a familiar puzzler with a few welcome twists. Although it's bursting with tons of replay value, its unchanging gameplay and lack of innovation hold it back from being a must-buy title.
- + Solid classic Puzz Loop gameplay
- + Upgrades are fun to experiment with
- + Loads of content with a massive campaign and a few extra modes to challenge
- - Doesn't deviate much from the already established Puzz Loop formula
- - Although there are a lot of modes, they all involve the same basic gameplay