Folks hard pushed to find a decent match-three puzzler on PlayStation 4 can rest easy as Sparkle 2, by King Oddball developer 10tons Ltd, is a well-crafted effort which will fill that need quite nicely, even if the lack of multiplayer proves to be a glaring omission.
After a narrated introduction that sets the scene for the game’s story; a fantastical but largely forgettable yarn about five enchanted keys lost in a mysterious land, the game starts proper with a tutorial that gets even the most inexperienced of match-three players quickly into the swing of things.
If Sparkle 2 looks like genre-favourite Zuma that’s because in many ways it feels and plays like a homage to the PopCap-developed classic. As a result, the gameplay is both easy to learn and without sounding *too* cliché, difficult to master too. For the uninitiated, you control a ‘shooter’ of sorts that sits in the middle of level while coloured balls roll down a pre-determined route towards an open abyss which, if they reach, results in defeat.
To prevent them from reaching their destination, players have to shoot shaded balls into the winding snake-like formation of coloured orbs as they slowly make their way to the end, with three or more adjacent orbs of the same colour resulting in them disappearing out of existence and being replaced with a shiny combo multiplier which increases the more matches are scored in a row.
As well as ramping up combos and scoring, there are a number of game-changing collectibles which can be snagged mid-game to turn the tide to the player’s advantage. These include such treats as a freeze ray which destroys balls in a straight path, a fire spinner which wildly shoots out destruction at all angles and spells which reverse the balls path or change its colour to match whichever you have ready to fire.
Ultimately, the essence of Sparkle 2 lies in testing the player’s ability to think on the fly and prioritise the elimination of colours further down the path before they become a problem. Equal parts satisfying and testing, the difficulty curve is well-judged enough that the game never becomes frustrating but always offers enough of a staunch challenge to keep players engaged across its more than ninety or so story mode levels.