Sparkle Unleashed Review

Richard Walker

In lieu of a Zuma game for Xbox One, 10tons' Sparkle Unleashed is a damn fine substitute, offering match-three marble blasting action that's a lot like PopCap's popular title. Like Zuma, coloured balls roll along a set path, and you have to eliminate the entire chain before they go tumbling down a hole. So far, so familiar, right down to the panic music that accompanies your trail of balls veering dangerously close to the pit of failure, yet Sparkle Unleashed has more than a few twists of its own to throw into the mix.

First off, you're not just dealing with a continuous train of orbs, but rather a set number of pushers inexorably shuffling the balls down their path or paths towards the abyss. Secondly, you control a launcher that moves left to right at the bottom of the screen, rather than a spinning frog that fires balls from its mouth. And third of all, Sparkle Unleashed's power-ups are gradually unlocked as you progress using magic keys you'll earn upon lighting each of the braziers scattered across the game's meandering map.

Each of Sparkle's power-ups have two more increasingly powerful versions to add to your inventory, and you can choose whichever suit your play-style best, be it spark shots to blast away any balls the projectiles hit, a colour splash that turns all orbs within its radius the same colour, wild orbs that can be matched with any colour or a backwards power up that shoves the balls rolling back in the opposite direction, buying precious time and room to breathe in the process.

Of course, Sparkle isn't all plain sailing during its 100 or so levels, chucking in chained orbs that need to be matched once to break the chains and again to pop them, rock orbs that shatter when you match nearby marbles, and levels that occasionally have two routes towards two holes. Some levels task you with surviving for a set amount of time rather than clearing the stage, while the Survival Mode itself is hugely challenging, demanding you constantly keep the decks clear against a non-stop train of orbs until you've accrued five stars.

If Sparkle's main quest is a jaunty walk through forests and mountains, Survival Mode is tough and relentless, requiring perseverance if you're to earn all 105 stars across its 21 levels. Should you manage this feat, there's a hefty achievement in it for you, while maintaining a constant chain of popping orbs to achieve 12x and 30x combos will also net you a couple of achievements.

Completing the game on hard and nightmare difficulties also adds replay value, and rounds out a straightforward achievement list that nonetheless encourages you to play the game to death for the full 1000G. As achievement lists go, Sparkle's is fine, if a little unremarkable.

An addictive and enjoyable match-three puzzler, Sparkle Unleashed is a great way to while away the odd few hours now and again. There's plenty of single-player content on offer in the main quest, and Survival Mode adds hours of additional replay value, if you're inclined to beat every challenge. That said, a multiplayer mode wouldn't have gone amiss, and while the presentation and soundtrack are excellent, Sparkle Unleashed lacks the personality, humour and vibrancy of Zuma.

But as marble shooting puzzlers go, you could do a lot worse than Sparkle Unleashed. It's good, clean fun; not just a load of old balls.

Sparkle Unleashed

Addictive and entertaining, Sparkle Unleashed is a more than competent Zuma-style puzzler for Xbox One that's definitely worth a look. Go on. Get your balls out.

Form widget
70%
Audio
70%

The soundtrack is fantastic, with some lovely orchestral tunes driving your marble shooting journey onward. Sound effects are fine, if a little unremarkable.

Visuals
60%

Shiny balls, nice fantasy environments, but nothing to write home about in a hurry. Sparkle Unleashed looks pretty enough.

Playability
80%

Sparkle Unleashed's beauty lies in its simplicity, which doesn't mean that its capacity to challenge is at all diminished. Sparkle can be pretty damn tough at times, but it's always fun.

Delivery
60%

108 levels to blast through, as well as 21 hard as nails Survivor Mode stages and two additional difficulty levels mean that you won't feel shortchanged. It can get a little samey after a while, however.

Achievements
50%

A small and fairly standard achievement list that covers most of the bases, but isn't exactly exciting. It does the job just fine.

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