Review: Sound Shapes (Vita)
Sound Shapes is not your typical platformer and it is not just another artsy indie game with no substance. Coming from Jonathan Mak, the creator of Everyday Shooter, you can expect it to be something a little different. And of course there will be some music involved in there somewhere. What you might not expect is how the music takes shape in Sound Shapes. This is why it has been one of the best titles I have played to date on my Vita.
It starts off rather simply. You are a little blob-like object who can only do a few things. It can stick to light colored surfaces, jump up and down, and finally turn into a ball that makes it roll around freely without worrying about sticking to things. These are the ingredients for making a simple and addictive platformer. You have enough control in the air so you really never miss a jump, but it wouldn’t matter if you did as there is no penalty for dying. Instead you will simply just respawn at the last checkpoint you reached. I am talking about this right now so that you understand, this is a game and a really good one at that. You could remove all the coin collecting, we will get to that in a second, the additive music generation and it would still play just as well as it does.
But what makes it stand out from other platformers is all that music. When you start a level there will not be much going on audio wise. That is until you grab a coin or two that you can see throughout the level. Each of these coins is a different note is the game’s soundtrack. Skip over a coin and that sound will not be present in the overall soundscape. When you travel across different screens sounds will be present from the previous ones, up to 3 screens away, so more and more is getting added to the level as you progress. By finishing these levels you will unlock all sorts of goodies to use in the level creator.
It is really amazing the way it plays out.
Whether you are playing the Superbrothers x Jim Guthrie inspired “Corporeal” or the Beck x Pyramid Attack “Cities”, each album brings something fresh. It is this freshness that has me going back to play levels over and over again even though I already have the platinum trophy. But if you are not into score chasing and trying to be number one in the world, after completing all of these albums the game unlocks a harder Death Mode and the Beat School.
Death Mode, as Jonathan Mak told us, is his way to force the players to get good at certain platforming aspects presented in the game. For the most part these are just challenging spots from each stage where you are trying to collect a certain amount of coins in a given time frame. While some will find these challenging, I really just found them frustrating. It seemed to be a crap shoot on whether I would be able to win, since coins are placed randomly in the stage. There really isn’t much to do after you beat them either since they do not include leaderboards. I think a game like Dyad handles these “trophy levels” in a much better way.
The second thing that becomes unlocked is the Beat School. These are, for me at least, far more challenging and entertaining to complete. The game will play a beat and you have to match it in the editor to complete each stage. It is a really great way to get a hang of the games rather robust level editor.
As someone who has tried and failed to create a level in LittleBigPlanet, I am always a little overwhelmed with in-game editors. However I found that the editor in Sound Shapes was rather easy to use. I think it all has to do with being on the Vita and having full touch control when editing. Each screen is broken up into a grid which acts like a piece of music editing software. Place an object further up the screen and it will be higher in pitch, place it lower and it will be lower. There is a time bar which is scrolling in the background so you know when the notes will hit. It is a really powerful tool that comes off as incredibly easy to use.
When you finish up your track you can upload it for the world to try. The game creators have even made this slick website so you can queue up different songs to try out. This is where the game will live on after you finish the campaign. While right now there is much other than trying to recreate Kingdom Hearts songs or making “World 1-1” I really can’t wait to see what people are making a few months down the line.
I want Sound Shapes to be the soundtrack to my life. It is totally worth your money to pick this game up. That way you can hum Hills n’ Spills with me all night long.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation Vita version of the game.
What I Like:
- Pops off the screen with varying visual styles
- Music that matches the visuals perfectly
- No penalty for dying
- How easy the editor is to use
What I Dislike:
- The randomness of Death Mode
- Some of the loads are a little long