Just over thirteen years ago, I had a job as a tour guide for a large news organization in New York City. During our downtime in between giving tours, my fellow guides and I would play games and watch movies on our respective computers. One particular game I became quite fond of was Zuma, an orb-matching puzzler that was simple, fun, and a great way to pass the time. I played the hell out of that game, always trying to beat my high scores. Since those days, I have discovered that dozens upon dozens of Zuma clones have come out on a multitude of platforms. Some of the clones are identical, while others are simply wearing a shiny new skin but still maintain the basic premise.
It would seem that 10tons have decided it too needed a clone of its own with bringing Sparkle Unleashed to the Nintendo Switch. It might just be me, but there seems to be an ever-increasing amount of game knock-offs and it’s getting old. However, I adored Zuma back in the day, so at the very least, Sparkle is an above average copy that improves on the original and makes good use of the Switch’s touchscreen.
If you’ve never played Zuma or any of its billion clones, I’ll give you the two-cent tour to catch up. As I stated above, Sparkle Unleashed is an orb-matching puzzler where players must match like-coloured orbs before they reach the end of the path. Once the orb at the head of the line reaches the abyss, the game is over and you have lost. There’s some skill involved when it comes to aim and placement, but it’s a simplistic game, no matter which version you play. 10tons has added in a background story and a reason for all the orb–matching, but to be honest, it doesn’t add anything to the overall game.
There are fair amounts of useful power-ups that give players a healthy advantage during each round. Acquired via multiple colour match combos, these power-ups can slow down time, blast away orbs, and more. I rather enjoy these quick action items, as they can really help when you’re overwhelmed and about to lose it all.
Just as in the source material, Sparkle’s difficulty increases as you advance through over one hundred levels. At first, the orbs move slow and are few in number, but after you’ve played some rounds, they start to come from multiple directions and speed increases exponentially. I can attest to the fact that it can get frustrating if you miss a shot or fail to snag that needed power-up. The way your adrenaline shoots up as the orbs inch closer to the abyss reminds me of the original Tetris and how I was stressed each time my tower of blocks quickly rose to meet the ceiling. In both cases, game over is inevitable and only a miracle placement can save the day.
This port plays much better in handheld mode, as the game takes full advantage of the Switch’s touchscreen. In fact, I find it far easier to play when undocked and on the go. The Joy-Cons do a good job at aiming, but the precision the touch screen offers is far superior. This is especially noticeable as the game speeds up, and you can’t aim or shoot fast enough. In handheld mode, just tap the screen where you want the orb and it instantly heads in that direction. I’m not saying the game is impossible while docked, but players will find a significant disadvantage in playing that way.
I want to make sure players don’t go into this thinking 10tons reinvented the wheel or anything else for that matter. Sparkle Unleashed and all the other Zuma clones have been available for over a decade, but that doesn’t mean this iteration doesn’t deserve a little bit of your time and Micro SD card space.
For Switch owners looking for a fun action puzzler with great touch controls, fast gameplay (after a while), and a moderate challenge, I can most certainly recommend Sparkle Unleashed.