Sep 27, 2011
You’re about to enter the dark and sinister Crowberry Woods. As the enchanted woodland has fallen under an evil spell, darkness has come over it and no one who ventures in is safe. As you search for ancient artifacts, amulets and other items, you’ll encounter a series of match-3 action puzzles which much be solved before you may pass! At least, that’s the premise of Sparkle Free, which has you choosing paths through a dark, mystical woods.
The puzzles you encounter in Sparkle Free as you move through the Crowberry Woods involve shooting a colored ball from a stationary turret at a line of colored balls which are rolling along a track, slowly moving toward a dark pit at the end. If they reach the end before you can clear them, you’ll lose a life as the level ends and be one step closer to starting over from scratch. It’s a rough challenge, but you’ll have a few items to help you out.
At certain points, you can win extra lives while recovering amulets and other power items. Each amulet has its own set of powers that can aid you, although some add an extra hindrance as a condition of their use. Also, being limited in the number of amulets you can wear, you’ll have to choose which ones suit your playing style the best. At the end of each path is an additional object waiting to be found, each helping to bring the light back to the woods as you progress through the game.
The power-ups you’ll be able to activate during the puzzles are also very helpful. Some will eliminate an entire color while others allow you to “blast” the balls right off the stage. During the easier puzzles, I tended to ignore the power-ups as I tried to get higher combos for more points. Later, though, the game gets very challenging, and I began to forget about setting up combos in favor of focusing on power-ups and ball elimination. With a limited number of lives, the sense of urgency when things get tough is extremely high.
As polished and nice as Sparkle Free is, it’s really just a preview of the full game, which hasn’t arrived, yet. Once you’ve passed the final level, that’s it. The game abruptly ends with only a “Thank you for playing, please play the full version,” screen to meet you on the other side. No more story, no more amulets to collect, nothing. All we can do is wait for the full game.
Regardless of the abrupt ending, it’s still a great, fun game with a lot of levels to keep you busy. You’ll get a good look at some of the features of the full game, including in-game achievements and more.
Gameplay-wise, Sparkle Free may be a Zuma clone, but I was surprised to find the extra polish and the pretense of an adventure through a mystical woods to make this a delightful time-killer. I just wish the full game were already available.