Developer: Forever Entertainment
Publisher: Forever Entertainment
Release Date: November 2nd, 2017
Price as of Article: $4.99 USD, £4.49
As you begin the tutorial level, you are spoken to by a godlike entity. You are a new organism in the vast depths of the ocean, and this creator has given you the spark of life. This entity teaches you how to grow and survive. It is revealed to you that your ultimate goal is to seek out micro-elements and other lifeforms to seek nourishment.
This is literally the extent of the story in The Sparkle 2 Evo. There isn’t much here at all, but that isn’t the focus of the game so let’s not dwell on it.
The music of The Sparkle 2 Evo is rather slow and dreamlike. It almost feels like it would be suitable music for a documentary about the Earth. There is very little variety to the music, but it reverberates with the designs of the stages and the feelings of the players as they swim in the somewhat closed environments to be explored in this game. The music is nice, and Forever Entertainment did well to keep the musical style within the game focused. For the rather slow gameplay, faster or more exciting music would not have suited it very well.
There was one issue I ran into with the audio. On two of the levels in the game, there was some audio crackling which was present for the entire level. It was present every time I reloaded into the stage. I looked up those stages on the PC version, and this audio crackle was also in those versions. This crackle was very unpleasant and gave me a minor headache. I had to turn the volume on my Switch down while playing on these stages. It isn’t a terrible issue and could be mitigated by turning down the volume, but it did hinder my enjoyment of the overall experience.
This is a game clearly designed by people who understand the mechanics of art and design. This game features fantastic use of chiaroscuro-like effects to help the brightly colored stage elements pop. There is fantastic use of complimentary colors throughout the majority of the stages. The contrast between the dark backgrounds and the vibrant neon colors of the translucent creatures and flora is sublime. It creates a distinct sense of depth to the world. Everything present within the void is fantastically detailed and uses line work to keep everything visually interesting. Also, there is a nice depth of field effect utilized as you swim upwards within the void and everything below you slowly fades out of view.
I found myself wishing that there had been a larger variety of stage types present in The Sparkle 2 Evo. There are two main stage types, and neither one offers anything particularly different or more interesting than the other. The main differences between the levels is simply their layout and what kinds of creatures can be encountered in them. There are a couple stages which offer a different look or experience than these, but they are far and few between.
Another problem is that several of the stages are rather empty. There are some areas within the stages that are fairly packed with beautiful and exquisitely detailed environmental elements, but there are also vast stretches of simply empty space. Just swimming around in this empty space is somewhat boring. It would have been nice had there been a bit more effort to fill up this space and add some more variety to it.
The Sparkle 2 Evo features both button controls and full touchscreen functionality. Press on the screen and move your finger to move your Sparkle around. If you touch the icon on the bottom-left side of the screen, you will swim down within the level, and if you press the icon on the bottom-right side, you will swim upwards. There are also some other functions the touchscreen serves within the game. I do appreciate it every time I see a developer utilize the touchscreen, motion controls or HD rumble in the Switch as it shows that they put in some extra time and effort to bring out the full capabilities of the Switch. However, in this game, it is simply easier to use play the game with the button controls. I found myself enjoying the game far more using the button controls to maneuver my Sparkle while using the touch screen for the menus.
I did not experience many technical difficulties. I did not encounter any slowdown of any kind, and I had no problems with the game crashing. There was one significant bug I did come across. On level 13, there is a giant octopus which you are supposed to be able to eat parts of then enter the body. Doing this is required to complete the stage. To my experience, I was unable to interact in any way with the octopus which prevented me from completing the stage. This did not prevent me from completing the game, though. I was still able to play the subsequent stages even without completing stage 13. This bug was in the original release of the PC and phone versions of this game and was eventually patched out. As a result, I am not concerned about it in the Switch version as I am sure Forever Entertainment will be releasing a patch for it in the near future.
You play as a Sparkle: a sea creature which consumes micro-elements from other animals and also laying around the sea to change its form. The Sparkle starts as a small organic blob which can choose between a red, green or blue element. If you choose the red element, you will become a fast predator with the special ability to dash. The green element turns you into a slow herbivore which can absorb several micro-elements quickly and efficiently with something akin to a tractor beam. The blue element turns you into an omnivore with balanced stats and the ability to scare away nearby creatures.
You will explore environments in the Sparkle Void in search of micro-elements which the consumption of initiates evolution within your Sparkle. Once you consume enough elements, you will level up, and you will change into a certain type of creature depending on how many micro-elements of that color you have eaten. As you level up and alternate between the herbivore, carnivore and omnivore creatures, you will also find that your creature will develop new limbs. It is always interesting to level up and see how your Sparkle will change. You can control which form you will become as you level up if you focus on a certain color of micro-element. For example, if you focus on eating red micro-element orbs, your creature will remain a carnivore as you level up. If you are a carnivore but wish to become an herbivore, then search for green orbs and focus on them until you level up. Near the end of the game, you will reach the final phase of your creature’s evolution. Once you reach this point, you won’t be able to change to any of the other major forms regardless of how many orbs of a certain color you eat, but your stats will be affected by how many of each orb you have eaten up until that point. If you are a an herbivore that has been through several carnivore phases, then perhaps you will be a little faster than if you had focused on being an herbivore the whole time.
To assist the player in searching the environments for these micro-elements, there is a helpful radar function. As you swim around and near a micro-element, there will be pings in the general direction it lies in. Simply follow the ping and search for it. Sometimes you will need to use the ZL to swim downwards in the space or ZR to swim upwards. Most stages have about five layers to swim through, and as you go deeper, you may reveal some hidden aspects of the stages you may not have seen otherwise. There generally won’t be anything special to do with them, but they are generally visually appealing.
Sometimes these micro-elements appear as body parts of other sea creatures. You must approach those creatures to eat the parts off their bodies and then finally their head. If you attempt to eat the head before the other body parts, you will be attacked and forced up a layer on the stage. You can immediately swim back down to the creature you were attacking though, so there isn’t any real punishment for failing to eat a creature on your first attempt. Also, some creatures will spew a poison that will significantly slow your movements briefly. Those are the only two ways for creatures to attack you. There is no way for you to be killed by anything in this game, so you don’t have to worry about that.
There is only one way to lose on a stage and have to restart it. If you play in the Competitive game mode, there will be other AI controlled creatures competing with you for food. If they end up eating more food than your Sparkle, you lose and have to restart the stage. This doesn’t vastly differ from the other game mode in which you casually swim around stages seeking food, but it does incite the player to be a little quicker and more efficient while searching for food.
This game doesn’t offer very much compelling in terms of its gameplay. After a while, it begins to become rather repetitive. Most of the stages have very similar designs, challenges and enemies. Also, the evolutions your creature achieves do no add much to the gameplay experience after unlocking their special abilities. It feels like much more could have been done with this concept. Also, this game would have been far more appealing if it supported multiplayer. Having splitscreen local co-op using split Joycons with a friend would have been a fun and interesting way to experience Sparkle 2 Evo.
This is a visually pleasant experience with somewhat boring and repetitive gameplay. It won’t take you long to complete. After only about 2 hours, you will come to the end of the game. The main appeal in replaying this game is to see what kind of creature you will have once you reach its final evolutionary stage. However, at just $5 the game sits at a price range that makes it fairly affordable. It is a pleasant game to just sit back while laying in bed and play in short bursts.