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Game Review Hub: Sound Shapes
Platform: PSN for PS3 and Vita
Developer: Queasy Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Estimated Length: 6 hours for story, 20+ total
Rating: 5 out of 5
Since the rise in popularity of downloadable game services like Steam and Playstation Network, platforming games have seen a comeback. Indie games like Braid and Limbo showed a modern gaming audience that this once beloved genre can still be relevant. On the other hand, this led to a deluge of indie platformers and I for one got burnt out on them quickly. That was until Sound Shapes. Sound Shapes is a unique twist on the platforming genre which easily caught my attention and held it the whole way through.
On the surface, Sound Shapes is a simple platformer with a hand-drawn art style. The gameplay consists of rolling an eyeball like character through mazes and puzzles to find the end of each level. The interesting part is that you can stick to almost any surface simply by jumping onto it. This allows you to climb walls and walk across ceilings. The puzzles are designed to utilize this mechanic, and you will frequently find yourself evading enemies by sticking to the ceiling, and walking on all sides of floating objects.
Throughout every level there are collectibles which the game refers to as coins. These reveal the part of the game which really makes it shine. Every time you collect a coin, a note is added to the music. Each coins location on screen determines the sound it will make once collected. The music starts very simple, but after a few screens worth of coins it can get very complicated.
In any other game, this mechanic might not be enough to set the game apart from the crowd, however Sound Shapes has an amazing sound track to begin with. The campaign is organized into albums, or worlds, and each album has music by a different artist. These artists include deadmau5, Superbrothers, and Beck. All of the music has a great 8bit style and will spark some nostalgia for any gamers who grew up with a NES.
On of the marquee features for Sound Shapes is the level editor. The editor allows players to make their own levels and share them over the internet. The tools are fairly easy to use and seem to allow some pretty deep creation. Most of the features seen in the story game are available in the editor, But by far the most interesting feature is the ability to add coins. This allows designers to make their own soundtrack for their custom levels. As a result, the community levels are mostly based around recreating famous video game music, such as Zelda and Mario. I will point out that the musical ability in the editor is much more limited than the level design, and you are only able to make about a dozen notes, which then loop.
After the completion of the campaign two new game modes unlock. One of these modes is a way to teach people how to add music to their custom levels. The game will play a few bars of music for you, and you must recreate that music using the editor. That was fun for a few minutes, but as the music got more complicated I found myself guessing and checking and not learning much at all.
The second game mode is my favorite part of the game. It is called Death Mode, and while the name is a bit cheesy, the game is anything but. Death mode consists of one challenge for every level of the campaign, with similar music and style. Each of these challenges consist of one screen and have a single coin. You are presented with a time limit, and a coin goal. Each time you get a coin, another spawns in a random place on the level. The object it to get a certain amount before the time runs out. In the early levels this is a minor challenge, but toward the end some of the levels become very difficult with the inclusion of enemies and moving platforms which block your path. However the precise controls and the short time limits had me trying and trying until I was able to finish them all. These challenges really reminded me of super meat boy and any fan of that game should really check this mode out.
Looking for something similar?
Super meat boy
Super Mario Brothers
I have played many platformers in my day, but few have as great a soundtrack or such interesting game mechanics as Sound Shapes. With the inclusion of all of the extra content like Death mode and the level editor, Sound Shapes is a great value. One of my favorite parts about this game is that buying the PS Vita version gets you the PS3 version for free. They even allow you to play on one platform and pick up where you left off on the other. These are both trends which I would like to see continue in the gaming industry. I would recommend this game to anyone who likes music, platformers or anyone who needs something to play on their vita. Let me know if you liked this game as much as me in the comments.