One of the things I love most about the Vita is that it allows for such a wide variety of gaming experiences. It has twin analogue sticks and physical buttons which make playing console quality games, like Killzone Mercenary, a possibility. But it also features a touchscreen that allows it to play all the touch-centric games found on most smartphones. Sparkle 2 is a game designed very much with touch in mind, and while it can be found on mobile devices, it can now also be found on the PS Vita.
Sparkle 2 is a match-three marble shooter. Simply line up three marbles of the same color and make them vanish. It’s not as easy as it may sound since the oncoming string of marbles follow a windy path, making what was once an easy shot into one Annie Oakley would have trouble with. The speed and number of marbles will vary from level to level, but if you can eliminate them all before they reach the end of the path, you’ll advance to the next challenge. You also get help from several different special attacks which you can acquire in each by collecting special orbs.
The game features three main components: story, survival, and challenges.
In story, you make you will make your way across 90 different levels in an attempt to collect the five magical keys that have been scattered throughout this mystical realm. In all honesty, the story is completely unnecessary and is just there to try and bring some context to the game. It doesn’t add much to the game, but it doesn’t take away anything either.
As you progress along the map, you will unlock different enchantments that can be assigned to your marble sling. These enchantments will give you special powers to make the game easier. For example, one enchantment slows down the game play, but makes the level last longer. Or another will launch a special attack every time you match three blue marbles together. You can then customize your sling by picking and choosing the enchantments you feel best suit your style of play.
The ability to customize the sling really changes the way the game is played. It’s also what sets it apart from other match-three games that I’ve played over the years. I could mix and match different enchantments until I found just the right combination that I felt was the most effective.
After finishing the story, you’ll be ready to take on the survival mode in which you will face a never ending onslaught of marbles and the goal is to last as long as you can. The longer you survive, the more stars you will earn for the level.
And finally the challenges mode allows you play the same level again and again with increasing difficulty. This provides a good mix of easy and hard levels, making it perfect for when you just want to play a quick match or two. Perhaps once your skills are good enough you can then attempt to replay the story mode in its “Nightmare” difficulty, which will truly test all your gaming skills.
The visuals in Sparkle 2, while not mind-blowing, are quite spectacular. Each marble is detailed in full, crisp colors that really shine on the Vita’s screen. This is one of the game’s main hooks; the beautifully colored marbles give the game a level of quality that separates it from other match-three games. The background art is equally impressive, and the cut scenes have an art style that reminded me of thatgamecompany’s Flower.
And a nice added touch is the option for a special “Colorblind Assist” mode which adds a pattern over each marble to differentiate them with something besides color. While I do not suffer from full-on color blindness (only color deficiency) I do appreciate that 10tons added this small, but important, extra feature to the game.
The sights are complimented by the sounds, which is to say the game has some pretty great music that would be right at home in any fantasy epic. The fully orchestral soundtrack really brings the game to life, and it adds a fair amount of tension when you’re close to defeat. Every time the music would shift, and I would be so close to losing, I could feel my heart start to race with the pounding of the drums. It’s some pretty great stuff, but it’s also not necessary. Sparkle 2 is a game that is equally enjoyable with the sound turned down and ideal for those moments when you’re sitting in a noisy waiting room or riding a crowded train.
While the game can be controlled either through touch or with the physical controls, it’s quite clear that Sparkle 2 plays much better with the touchscreen. When the action gets heated, launching marble after marble with pin-point accuracy is much easier with a quick tap on the screen, and it’s a little trickier trying to use the sticks to aim with much accuracy. This makes the game feel more at home on the Vita than on the PS4, which offers technically superior visuals but more imprecise controls (you can however use the Dualshock 4’s touchpad as well, which works slightly better than the sticks, but nowhere near as well as the touchscreen).
Sparkle 2 is a very fun casual game. The touch controls make it a perfect fit on the Vita, and the bite sized game play is just right for when you just have a few minutes to spare. The game may not revolutionize the genre, but it does get everything right. If you love match-three games, there is no better option for your Vita than Sparkle 2.
Sparkle 2 is a cross-buy (but not cross-save) title available on the PS Vita and PS4. It will retail for $7.99 or € 6.99. And if you want to try before you buy, there will be a demo available so you can check it out for yourself.