I never played the first Sparkle game, which was on mobile devices. As a matter of face, my first experience with a 10tons game was King Oddball on the PlayStation 4, which I found weird and addicting. When I got a review code for Sparkle 2, I didn't even read the email. I saw a screenshot, thought "Oh my god it's Zuma! I love Zuma!", and then saw it is not Zuma. It's a lot like Zuma, which will make it appeal to anyone that's a fan of that series and owns a PS4/PS Vita, but it stands on its own.
Sparkle 2 is an action puzzle game where different colored balls move along a path, and it's your job to shoot balls and make matches of three or more before they reach the target goal area. With the simple but insanely polished gameplay comes vibrant, gorgeous visuals with equally pleasing effects. The songs, while enjoyable at first, do get repetitive — just like many other puzzle games.
The layout for the levels make for a challenging experience as the game progresses, but you get power-ups to counteract the difficulty. Along the game's 90 levels, you'll unlock abilities that get socketed into four possible spots in your launcher. These will do things like launch your balls quicker, or make the 10th match spawn a special ability ball. You can make changes before the start of a level, so if you keep losing on a certain one, change things up a bit. The gamepad is accurate enough, and holding down the shoot buttons helps you by displaying the path of the ball. Still, there's an adjustment period to the sensitivity of the analog sticks, and you definitely need to learn how to lead your shots. You can use the touchpad, which acts like a mouse, but the analog sticks were easier for me.
In addition to the game's 90 story levels, there's a survival mode and challenge mode. Survival has you playing a level and, obviously, surviving a certain number of waves to earn a star rating. Challenge mode places you in a level that is, well, challenging. They add replay value and more challenges for you to overcome, but nothing is tougher than the nightmare difficulty that gets unlocked after beating the story. I cruised through the story on the standard difficulty, failing on a level maybe five times total, but nothing could prepare me for the Nightmare difficulty. Even with keeping all of the power-ups you've unlocked, Nightmare is extremely hard. And I wouldn't have it any other way.
Two things irked me with the game, though. I didn't like that you didn't earn multipliers for getting rid of orbs when shooting through a gap in other orbs. I take pride in doing that and would like to be rewarded or acknowledged for it. The other thing is that the story is kind of pointless. The narrator's voice sounds cool, but there's no need to even follow it.
In the end, this is a great, vibrant puzzle game for the PlayStation 4 and PS Vita, and it is a cross-buy title. If you love Zuma, you will undoubtedly love this title.
The PS Vita difference
Sparkle 2 on the PS Vita is the same game. All of the modes are present, and the visuals still look great. The main difference comes in the controls. The tiny analog sticks of the Vita are notoriously sensitive. For a game that requires precision, Sparkle 2 becomes more difficult when playing on the Vita. Luckily, you can use the Vita's touchscreen as an alternative. I found using the touchscreen to be superior to the analog sticks, and it gave me more control and accuracy. It was as if I was playing on an iPhone.