A great match-3 shooter combines responsive game mechanics with a visually interesting field of play. Titles like Zuma’s Revenge and Luxor have raised the bar, but Sparkle Unleashed, the third in the Sparkle series by 10tons, just doesn’t measure up.
Sparkle Unleashed is a match-3 shooter with 108 levels (the first 16 are free, and the rest cost $5.99), 18 unlockable power-ups, and both a story and survival mode. As in other match-3 shooters, strings of orbs come out of one side of the screen and make their way along a path towards a pit.
The goal is to shoot orbs from your slinger to create matches of three or more. In a departure from previous Sparkle titles, the slinger is not fixed to one spot, and can be moved along the bottom of the screen to allow the player to chase different lines of orbs across the screen.
The gameplay is intuitive, and the tutorial pop-ups do a good job of explaining each new power-up and challenge orb (chained orbs, scorched orbs, etc.) as they appear. Despite being well-made in a technical sense, Sparkle Unleashed is not a standout title in this rather crowded genre.
Unfortunately, Sparkle Unleashed has to compete with more interesting and visually appealing match-3 shooters. Match-3 shooters litter the app store, and many have more personality than this stale title. Sparkle Unleashed doesn’t even stand out within the Sparkle series, as it’s virtually indistinguishable from its predecessor, Sparkle 2. The game’s graphics, music, and storyline are all uninspired, especially compared with competing games.
While Zuma features an Aztecan frog and a grinning, stylized skull, Sparkle Unleashed has a silver wand of some sort and a hole in the ground. The background is plain earth, the orbs are barely textured, and the paths are simple wavy lines. The only interesting elements are the special orbs, which look charred.
Sparkle Unleashed has lots of levels, a responsive shooting mechanic, and the power-ups enhance the gameplay rather than feeling tacked on. It’s a decent match-3 shooter, and fans who couldn’t get enough of the genre, or of Sparkle 2 in particular, will enjoy this serviceable game. Players new to the match-3 shooter genre should really start with one of the more interesting titles.