If you’ve ever played an entry from PopCap’s ZUMA series, or the late '90s Puzz Loop game by Mitchell Corporation, Sparkle 2 by 10tons falls under the same banner. For the uninformed, Sparkle 2 is a bit of a blast from the past, providing marble madness in the form of a puzzle match game. The fact this entry is a sequel is nothing to fear; Sparkle 2 welcomes newcomers as it’s both an independent and spiritual successor to the first instalment that – you may or may not be aware of – released in 2007.
Sparkle 2 is best defined as a marble shooter; the title’s inability to seriously differentiate itself from past interpretations of this genre doesn’t necessarily detract from the enjoyment you can find here.
You’re immediately dropped into a fantasy world and informed by the game’s narrator that you must reunite five enchanted keys created long ago in order to unlock secrets of the land. The mystery surrounding your journey is enough to briefly spur you on, but it’s the addictive gameplay that is the real driving force.
Despite the lack of context as to why exactly the on-screen action plays out as it does, the fantasy setting in Sparkle 2 still manages to provide a serene backdrop for each level. If the marble shooting is intended to have symbolic meaning, it’s not easy to interpret - regardless of this, the game still manages to unfold in a relatively straightforward manner.
You start your journey on the world map and travel from place to place. Along the way you’ll unlock new game modes, play through more than 90 unique levels and collect up to 16 different enchantments. Each level’s setting is defined by its name, with appropriately themed locations such as Firefly Meadow and Whispering Woods – both of which look as you would probably envision.
To play Sparkle 2 you must shoot coloured orbs from a spinning “orb slinger” at long lines of mobile orbs, in order to make a colour match of three or more. The main goal is to clear a long line of coloured marbles before it falls into the abyss at the end of the spiral trail. As you progress you’ll need to do this at a faster pace, all while dealing with additional lines for prolonged periods, and even a larger variety of coloured orbs. The overall execution of the core gameplay is right on the money; the controls provide a great sense of precision, and if you briefly hold in the button before launching an orb a guide line will appear on the screen to enhance the accuracy of your shots. The title also includes touch-screen controls, which makes it more approachable to players of all ages.
Like past releases within this genre, Sparkle 2 provides players with temporary power-ups in the form of rune rewards as well as enhancements to supercharge your “orb slinger” device. There are wild orbs that match-up with any orb colour, power-ups that reverse the direction of a moving line of marbles and a lot of others that will help you clear lines faster using a range of destructive methods. Launcher enchantments make each session a tad more manageable with permanent enhancements that can be applied to your “orb slinger” in between levels- each one has a unique effect. The tranquillity enchantment is one of the more enjoyable ones, making levels easier but longer. Others include the likes of “Eternity Swap”, adding an additional coloured orb to the launch mechanism. There are more unlocked as you level up and progress through the main game.
If this makes it sound like Sparkle 2 is too easy, for those of you seeking a challenge there are three different difficulties, including a nightmare setting. The additional game modes unlocked as you progress through the story include Survival, Challenge and Cataclysm. Collectively, these modes include more of the same in terms of content and provide a tougher challenge for more experienced players.
In contrast to the safe design of Sparkle 2, the soundtrack goes above and beyond all thanks to the award-winning composer Jonathan Geer. His previous work includes the likes of Cook, Serve, Delicious 2!! and Owlboy. All of the music in the game hits the right notes for a fantasy setting, ultimately finding the perfect harmony with the orb matching gameplay. It also manages to outshine the game’s artwork, which is pretty but too often uninspired.
Besides the optional touch controls that make this title accessible to all ages, Sparkle 2 doesn’t attempt to take this classic genre to new heights; instead it provides an experience that is mostly on par with past efforts - including the original Sparkle game. Fortunately, these development choices can only be commended as it is a well designed game with satisfactory production values; it'll likely have you glued to the screen until you’ve lost your marbles.