Review: Sparkle Snapshots 3D (3DS eShop)

Take a pretty picture

It’s easy to forget about all of this multi-functional nonsense and think of 3DS as an all-out gaming machine, but occasionally a new app appears to remind us that, actually, Nintendo intends for the system to offer much more. The arrival of Sparkle Snapshots 3D in the eShop is one such reminder, a camera app designed to offer far greater customisability and functionality than the default system software. If you love tweaking photos with wallpapers, wigs and silly hats, then this is exactly the kind of app to pique your interest.

It seems harsh, with consideration for the quality offered throughout, that we need to initally point out a major downside to this title. In basic terms, the presentation is heavily skewed to one particular demographic, primarily girls in their early teens or earlier — yet even these gamers may still be turned off. The moment you load the app it bombards you with pink, love hearts, flowers, happy young women posing with pink 3DS systems and an overly enthusiastic voice guiding you every step of the way. Considering Nintendo’s normal philosophy of producing experiences that appeal to people of all sexes and ages, it’s a remarkably obtuse approach. That said, we turned off the rather irritating voice and learned to live with the excessive pink-ness on display.

The main purpose of this app is to take pictures and edit them with wallpapers, borders and silly little extras, and in this respect it’s an impressive package. First of all, the technical limitations of the camera are tackled with some basic settings that affect the colour balance and lighting, all in an effort to get the best results possible. The next step is to select from a combined 72 template backgrounds, frames and mixes of the two: it’s a decent variety that also include a few Mario Bros. references, for a distinctly Nintendo touch. After those are selected you take the image with either the inner or outer cameras, with a shutter timer if necessary, and you’re on the way.

With the picture taken it’s time to dive into editing, and this is the area where the app is at its strongest. You’re initially presented with what appears to be a bewildering number of options, but there is plenty of help at hand with tutorial messages and the manual, though the best way to learn is, ultimately, trial and error. There were occasions when the interface felt crowded and we got confused about how to get to certain settings, but a few minutes of trying options and making liberal use of the undo button would normally see us through. There’s also a restart button to go back to the original image, as well as the opportunity to save progress if you’re planning to try something extravagant.

So far this is very similar to the DSiWare version, Sparkle Snapshots, but the ‘3D’ in the title does serve as the key difference. By alternating a simple setting, any stamps or drawings that you add can either be placed in the background – with the photo itself – or in the foreground with the frame that you’ve selected. The 3D effect is, like the system’s default camera, all about distinct layers of images rather than the smooth rendering seen in a typical game engine. It’s effective though, and there’s a mind-boggling range of drawing tools and styles, stamps, ribbons and images that you can use. It’s possible to make photos exceptionally silly and fun, whether that’s by adding extra images or putting a pair of glasses on a dog: the options are truly expansive. A minor complaint is that we occasionally had issues editing small areas with a brush, despite the option to zoom in, as the stylus sensitivity didn’t seem fully optimised; this wasn’t a major issue, but may be an inconvenience at times.

Overall, the editing options are of a high standard, and Nintendo’s also making use of DLC to broaden these further. At the time of writing it was possible to download two extra packs of content at 90p each: Mario Core Set and Mario Kart 7 Set. The ‘free’ category is currently empty, but the in-app setup seamlessly links into your eShop account to add funds and make the download. Whether you’re anxious enough for more Mario templates to actually pay extra is an entirely personal choice, though one disappointment is that there’s no way to preview the content before buying, making it a bit of a blind purchase.

Other areas of this app follow a similar trend of getting much right, while also making basic mistakes. One positive is that you can edit not only images taken in the software, but any photo currently on your SD card, which includes those taken on the system’s camera app: edits don’t overwrite originals, but get saved as a new image. On the downside, the options for sharing your photos are mediocre at best. It’s possible to share and view other’s pictures through local multiplayer, but each 3DS needs its own copy of the software; that’s the only way to intuitively share files between systems. If you want to post your images online or share them by email – in 2D, of course – then you’ll need to plug your SD card into a computer and remove them manually. The concept of sharing the images easily through social network accounts, or any other resource, has been skipped.

Conclusion

Sparkle Snapshots 3D get as much right as it does wrong. On the positive side it has a truly impressive range of settings and customisations for taking and editing photos, with enough assistance while using various tools for those with patience. The negatives are that the interface can be confusing at times, the DLC content is a mystery until purchased and the options for sharing witty masterpieces are extremely limited: that and the visual/audio design will be a turn off for a lot of people, of either sex. With a bit more thought and effort this app could have been fantastic, but is still worth consideration for those that can overlook its flaws.

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