Dr. Sparkz Lab


Review by Dave Giarrusso



Graphics: 7

Sound: 6

Gameplay: 7

Overall: 7

Do ya dig puzzle games? Are you down with ridiculous monster movies? Wellsir, cross goofy sci-fi B-movies with Tetris and you’re well on your way to understanding Dr. Sparkz’ Lab, one o’ those unreleased Atari coin-ops. Since I love crappy movies AND (good) puzzle games, this game really struck a chord with me. And the good news is, it’s a fun game!

Dr. Sparkz’ closest relative, Lord Tetris, PhD, is undoubtedly the inspiration for this zany coin-op. Both games are puzzlers in a world where raindrops have been replaced by falling objects. The joystick maneuvers the objects left, right, and down, and the buttons rotate said objects in ninety degree increments. Should the player fail to match enough objects, the screen fills up, thus ending the game. In Sparkz’, the objects are square blocks containing a section of pipe. The goal here is to join red contacts on the left side of the screen with blue contacts on the right side of the screen by fitting pieces of pipe together to create complete circuits, or “Sparkz.”

The game begins with the decidedly charming Dr. Sparkz asking the player to “help me to build a monster…” in his best mad-scientist voice, somewhere between Dracula and Martin Landau pretending to be Dracula. Creating a predetermined number of Sparkz will add pieces to a monster on the right side of the screen (during a one player game – in a two-player game, the screen is split a la Tetris, Klax, etc.). The female monster’s head appears first, then the, er, chest, then the waist, right shoulder, and so on. So far, I haven’t been able to complete an entire monster, so I’m not sure what happens when she’s completed. While she’s being built though, she offers appreciative little comments, like “all RIGHT!” after she looks down and notices her boobies. If that’s not comedy, I dunno what is.

Sparkz is a fun little puzzle game with a great theme. The characters are all very well drawn, the voices are perfect, and the eerie Saturday monster movie matinee music and sound effects are superb. Sparkz also contains a lot of little nuances that reward the player who sticks with the game. One example: in later levels, little molecular bundles of energy appear randomly around the screen. Running over them with a falling block rewards the player with bonus points.

So why weren’t we all playing Sparkz at the local arcade? As is often the case with unreleased arcade titles, I’d guess that the game was put out on test at a local mini-golf game room and wound up performing below the level required to put it into production. I’d also guess that the fantastic art direction and game design were less responsible for its demise than a market that was close to the puzzler saturation point at that time. Pity – there just aren’t enough mad scientist coin-ops out there, let alone a mad scientist coin-op that allows us to play god by building monsters.

It’s too bad that Dr. Sparkz’ Lab never made it into production. If you’re really into puzzle games, give this one a try, you may be pleasantly surprised. Of course, if you’re the type of person that loves to bask in all the absurd splendor of an honest-to-goodness Ed Wood flick, or, gasp, something much worse, like “The Hands of Orlac,” then by all means, get out there and track this game down, Chester! You’ve got sparkz to complete and monsters to build. Mwhaaa haa haa haaaaa!


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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:23 PM