WebOS users have been waiting a long time for PopCap to support the platform, but with games like Sparkle HD filling the Zuma shaped hole more than capably, the wait is easier on fans of PopCap.
Sparkle HD is a Zuma clone that is actually better than Zuma in many ways, particularly in terms of graphics and gameplay variety and is actually the best game in the initial TouchPad launch line up. The game takes place in the Crowberry Woods, and the player has to beat back an encroaching darkness by shooting orbs, completing levels and finding amulets. The whole back story is welcome and unobtrusive, and gives the designers an opportunity to create a unique theme for the game, as well as to make sense of the different paths you travel along.
The basic gameplay is similar to Zuma, so you shoot different coloured orbs at lines of orbs that snake along a fixed path towards the exit. If they get there its game over, so you must shoot the orbs to create rows of three or more obs within the snaking line, at which point the matched orbs will disappear. Continue this until all the orbs in each line are gone. Lines will continue to appear until you reach a certain score, visualised by runes on your launcher.
You can create chains and combos, and doing this is really satisfying, especially when you work it so you kill an entire line with one shot. The game gets progressively harder, with several snaking lines on-screen at once and the gameplay becomes more of a fight to survive than a score hunt.
There is also an RPG-lite element at play here with the amulets that you can collect on the way. Before each level you get to choose one amulet to take with you, and these have a big effect on the gameplay. Some simply speed up your shots, but others make every power-up a bomb, or make all power-ups drift towards you and many other unique ways of influencing the game. It really does effect the game, and choosing a different amulet can be the difference in passing or failing a tricky level.
The graphics here are really great, with darkly themed and interesting backgrounds contrasting nicely with the bright orbs, power-ups and special effects. The sound is equally good with an excellent original soundtrack driving you on.
There are three game modes; the main quest mode that will keep you occupied for several hours at least, the intense survival mode and challenge mode. All this plus built-in stat tracking and achievements mean that this will keep you entertained for a long time to come. There are even a few secrets to discover.
The game really takes advantage of the big screen of the TouchPad, with levels that really take up the whole screen and you will be pointing and touching all over the screen frantically to survive. The only real negatives here are that it doesn’t feel quite as solid as Zuma when the orbs hit and the lack of any online high scores.
Overall, this is an excellent action puzzle game that will keep you entertained with its good looks and fast paced gameplay. As I said before, this is the best of the launch games on TouchPad.
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