Compared to Nova Heart, the last game I played, Sparkle is a much more traditional piece of interactive fiction. Not merely because it's parser-based and written in Inform--it has very much the traditional feel of interactive fiction. The introduction ends with "The road ends here at an abandoned cable car platform. The cableway leads directly to my destination. I must get it running, somehow.", and inspecting the cable car reveals that it is locked to the platform with an iron bar, which is attached to the platform with bolts. I will need a wrench!
With this as motivation, I explored the surroundings, coming to a gate guarded by a dog. Then the game instructed me to "Find a quiet place to MEDITATE." I'd just seen such a place, so I did as instructed, and the game revealed a piece of information--"dog equals flute"--and a new mechanic: "With this information I can CHANGE things INTO their counterpart identities. I can also THINK to recall previously learned information."
I was fairly excited by the possibilities, at this point, but I'm afraid that Sparkle didn't quite live up to my expectations. The rest of the game involves solving some pretty standard puzzles with the aid of the new mechanic. That's all pretty solid, but the only way to learn which objects can be changed into which others is to inspect some objects, and then meditate. Some of the objects you've examined may work with the new command. Or maybe not.
My biggest disappointment with this game is that the changing-things-into-things mechanic (Spoiler - click to show)turns out not to actually be a puzzle. The game tells you, of this mechanic, that "the key to true enlightenment is to observe the Pattern and to understand it," but that's a red herring. The pattern is that there is no pattern--according to the game, anything can be changed into anything. That's not actually true, though: objects can only actually be turned into the counterparts the game specifies, and only after the game tells you that you can, too--nothing clever happens on repeated playthroughs.
Despite my disappointment with the game's unique mechanic, Sparkle does have a few things to recommend it. There are a number of optional puzzles, listed by the game as achievements. I didn't get all of them, but they seem to be well-integrated into the game. For example, during one event, you're told that your clothes get wet, and later you discover an umbrella--the obvious thing is to (on a subsequent playthrough) get the umbrella first, and protect your clothes. And, indeed, this yields an achievement--nice. The achievement system does seem to be a little buggy, though--I got some achievements that I didn't actually complete, and I think it didn't always notify me when I got one.
Also, Sparkle is written in first person, but can optionally be put into second person, which is a neat gimmick.
Overall, I'm pretty pleased with this game. If it gets a post-comp release fixing the trouble with the achievements system, I might like to go back and try to complete some of the optional puzzles.
Play time: about 45 minutes.