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iPhone Game Review: Sparkle
      #36320 - 03/15/10 01:31 PM

iPhone Game Review: Sparkle
Reviewed by Austin

The Darkness is taking over Crowberry Woods and only you can stop it. The one object that can save existence resides deep within the forest. You must travel alone into the Darkness to defeat it.

Gameplay

Sparkle plays like your basic marble shooter; you shoot your orbs at a moving "train" of orbs to make a match of three or more of the same color. The main objective is to keep the "train" from reaching the hole at the end of the track. How Sparkle differs from others, are its various power-ups and amulets. There are two types of power-ups, destructive and altering. Destructive power-ups use varying methods to destroy orbs and altering power-ups change orbs' colors, slow the "train", or make the "train" go backwards. Out of the ten or so power-ups, only around half of them are actually useful. There are fifteen amulets to be unlocked, each with their own attributes. Some of these are positive, and some may be considered negative. Amulets are rewarded after completing a set number of levels in Quest mode and can be selected in between levels.



There are three game modes in Sparkle: Quest, Challenge, and Survival. In Quest mode you travel into the forest in search of a rune to rid the world of the Darkness. This mode consists of over 60 levels called days. After around every five days, you are rewarded with a life. This becomes quite a problem as past days cannot be replayed. Thankfully, about every ten days there is a checkpoint; a gameover will result in starting over from this checkpoint day. Survival mode feels a little misleading. Instead of a timer, you gain ranks based on how many orbs you have cleared. When you fail, you can simply restart at your highest obtained rank. Survival is played on the 20 or so maps from Quest mode with specific amulets. Last but not least is Challenge mode. This mode is also misleading. You play the maps from Quest mode like a normal game. The "challenge" is to complete the map as fast as you can.

When taking a break from the core game, there is something else you can do: hunt for secrets. The developer has taken the time to scatter twelve secrets throughout Sparkle. For every four secrets you find, you are rewarded an amulet. This is an unusual and very entertaining touch.

While the gameplay modes and power-ups are entertaining, Sparkle has a huge flaw: this isn?t any kind of scoring system, and for those who play to compete on highscores this is fatal. At the end of a level, you are given stats: orbs shot, accuracy, longest chain and combo, and the time it took to complete the level. Other than that, there isn?t any kind of scoring. It feels like there is no point, nothing to keep you motivated other than to complete the story.



Graphics

There is a nice bit of polish in this section. Orbs roll and shine, the map looks great, the main menu looks amazing, and the power-ups are flashy and eye-catching. The orb shooter seems to be a little lacking though.

Sound

The music stands out quite a bit. Simply said, it is very catchy and well composed. The music varies as you continue through the main quest. It is some of the best music I have heard in an iPhone game.

Not much to say about sound effects. The orbs clack like pool balls and crunch when destroyed. A chime goes off for a chain or a combo. Sounds seem complete and appropriate.

Unfortunately iPod music is disabled. Though the music is good, it can get repetitive and nothing truly beats your own.



Conclusion

Sparkle is an attempt to bring marble shooting genre to the iPhone. It doesn't necessarily fail, nor does it truly succeed. While it is fun, it becomes repetitive far too fast. Without a scoring system there isn't much motivation to continue. If you must have a marble shooter, then this is a good choice. It has a great amount of polish, great music, and the core game mechanics.

This game requires a great amount of patience. Levels eventually begin to last to over three minutes. It doesn?t sound like much, but it can get boring fast. It is only recommended to buy this game if you love marble-shooters. If you don't, there maybe a strong chance you may not enjoy this game.





Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):

Graphics: 5 Well-polished graphics.
Sound: 5 Probably some of the best music in an iPhone/iPod touch game.
Controls: 4 Tap to shoot, can get a little difficult when the "train" is close to the shooter.
Gameplay: 3 It becomes very repetitive and lacks a scoring system.

Playing Hints and Tips:

-Avoid the Amulet of Simplify. While removing one color sounds like it make it easier, the orbs move fast enough without it. It?s not worth it.

-Try to keep the ?train? broken. As long as there is a gap, it won?t be moving.

-Act quickly. The game won?t wait on you. If you don?t clear them fast enough, they will keep piling up.

App Facts:
Developer: 10tons
Release Date: February 21, 2010
Price: $2.99
Buy App: iTunes App Store


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LordGek
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Re: iPhone Game Review: Sparkle [Re: Tong Zhang]
      #36322 - 03/15/10 02:25 PM

Hey Austin,

Decent review that really sums up the game. I'm not sure I was too fond of the omission of scoring as well. The game will track stuff like "combinations" (I think this being how many marble clearing moves you can make in a row) but, again, without a score I fail to see any point in doing this.

Something, however, that I DO think this game has over the many other Zuma (marbles on a track shooters) is the whole "Amulet System". Kind of like a simplified version of what they already did in Azkend and Dragon Portal where you can choose not so much a power-up but more like a certain game rule tweak to be in effect the whole level by which of the 15 amulets you choose to wear. While some of these effects seem a bit more useful than others, I appreciate how the game tries to balance some effects that might be too "game breaking" (making stuff too easy) with some built in disadvantages as well. Like an Amulet that slows the progress of the pieces down a little but at the same time makes them much smaller and therefore a bit tougher to precisely target. This also means that amulets unlocked later in the game are necessarily "better", just different.

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Tong ZhangModerator
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Re: iPhone Game Review: Sparkle [Re: LordGek]
      #36324 - 03/15/10 02:42 PM

I wonder if the developers have any plan to add this later. It happens some times when a developer releases a game, he/she doesn't want to pay for scoreboard software/services until the game sells for a while to make it worthwhile. I can't say if that's the case with this game. But if it is let's hope they do add that since both of your pointed out that the combo stats and other stats are already there.

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LordGek
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Re: iPhone Game Review: Sparkle [Re: Tong Zhang]
      #36334 - 03/16/10 12:04 PM

I think the scoreless stuff is pretty intentional as it was like this in the PC/Mac version as well.

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Tong ZhangModerator
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Re: iPhone Game Review: Sparkle [Re: LordGek]
      #36335 - 03/16/10 12:39 PM

Is it easy for ports like this to join OpenFeint?

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LordGek
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Re: iPhone Game Review: Sparkle [Re: Tong Zhang]
      #36336 - 03/16/10 02:06 PM

Quote:

Is it easy for ports like this to join OpenFeint?




No clue. They have yet to join any network with Azkend and Dragon Portals so I'm not sure if they aren't bothering or still trying to find the right service, let me ask them and see if they can post their response here.

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10tonsLtd
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Reged: 03/17/10
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Re: iPhone Game Review: Sparkle [Re: LordGek]
      #36343 - 03/17/10 02:01 AM

Hi everyone, just dropping by to answer some questions about Sparkle.

As somebody already pointed out, the original PC version didn't have scores either. We did cover the topic when we started creating the iPhone version, but since the game worked well without the scores already and it seemed that only a very few people were missing the scores, we didn't want to change that. Simply, we've never seen Sparkle as a "highscore game".

We've implemented online leaderboards for some of our games which have a heavily score based gameplay like Boom Brigade, Rope Raider, and Belowscape.

As for OpenFeint and other similar services, we've considered those too but haven't actually used them yet. It would be really awesome if there was a solid multiplatform social gaming service that would work on iPhone, PC, Mac, Android, and more. Many services are really iPhone centered but we'd like to deliver games for all suitable platforms. The iPhone is probably the most influential mobile gaming platform at the moment, so this isn't too surprising, but there are other platforms too. Scoreloop has support for iPhone and Android and I think OpenFeint will also support Android. Hopefully they'll add official PC and Mac support as well.

If there was a simple to use white-label (meaning that we could do our own game-specific user interface for all highscore functionality) multiplatform social gaming service, we would definitely consider it. Let us know if there is one! However, this is not to say that we won't pick up OpenFeint or some another service at some point - Just passing some thoughts about the topic.


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LordGek
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Re: iPhone Game Review: Sparkle [Re: 10tonsLtd]
      #36345 - 03/17/10 08:12 AM

Thanks for the prompt response and yeah, I get you, more than many other developers you really do need to think of multiple platforms for your games and it would be silly to devote a lot of time to modify your game to work with some iPhone only online scoring system.

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Tong ZhangModerator
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Re: iPhone Game Review: Sparkle [Re: LordGek]
      #36346 - 03/17/10 09:49 AM

Thank you for the info on scoring services. Very helpful!

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