Sometimes you don’t want to start from zero.
Depending on which franchises we are talking about, there is a huge appeal to replay older titles, even after we experienced newer and better iterations of the same ideas and concepts. Either fuelled by nostalgia, or by the curiosity of discovering the origins of certain games, it is often a good thing when we see indie developers bringing their older titles to the Switch eShop. However, when the third installment of a franchise doesn’t deliver what you’d expect of a full-fledged game, what would be the percentage of hype to get to know its very origins?
Forever Entertainment already brought to the Switch eShop – out of order – two titles of the Sparkle franchise. Both Sparkle 2 EVO and Sparkle 3 Genesis put the player in control of a microscopic being, whose objective is to eat stuff in order to evolve. In general, these games tried to create a relaxing and meditating gameplay loop using an idea similar to the first part of Maxis’ Spore. However, the actual result was very bland and repetitive games that felt more like mini-games that lasts longer than it should. Sparkle Zero, the first game of the franchise, is no different. In fact, it stands as the more barebones version of the same concept.
Here, again, you control a microscopic creature, whose only objective is to eat stuff and evolve. While the sequels to Sparkle Zero tried to create a macro narrative, in which an ever-knowing being guides the so-called Sparkle on its evolutionary progressions, this first title doesn’t even try to. You simply start the game within the top-down perspective and have to figure things out on your own.
As you start to swim your way through the level, eating the static collectibles, some cursors appear near your creature and they initially show things like the position of the closest collectibles. It’ll also show if there are creatures that resemble you, but all you will really learn is that Sparkle Zero provides no actual challenge. If you’re not big enough to eat the enemy creature, it’ll simply bounce on you. You then simply go back to eating the motionless collectibles.
Once you eat enough stuff (the game has no indicator to show your current progress), a whirl appears somewhere in the level, with its respective cursor showing the direction. It is the signal you’re big enough to swim to a higher level. Then, the same loop repeats once more. You eat stuff, get bigger, until a new whirl eventually appears.
As you progress through each level, new types of creatures will appear, like jellyfishes and small fishes that swim as a group. Even then, during the 45 minutes that the game lasts, the same boring gameplay loop repeats again and again, with nothing to break the monotony. The entire quest structure of its successors are missing, which makes of Sparkle Zero an even poorer execution of the same idea. Even the abstract and translucent world of Sparkle Zero is less interesting than what we saw on the other titles of the franchise. Instead of the multi-colored coral-filled ambience, the entire game features the same dark blue visuals.
There is no particularly remarkable title in the entire Sparkle franchise. Even then, Sparkle Zero feels like the most barebones execution of the creature-evolving idea. With no quest system, creature variety and different environments, there’s no reason to start from zero here.