In the run up to the Vita’s release, Queasy’s music-based platformer was one of the more impressive games on display for the system. Everything from the games vibrant visuals to its interactive soundtrack made me giddy with excitement when I first played the game last December.
The premise here is simple, you move a one-eyed blob around 2D levels, collecting icons which flesh out the game’s quite marvellous soundtrack. Collecting icons near the bottom of the screen introduces low frequency instruments such as a rumbling bassline to the composition while notes placed a little higher may trigger more tinny instruments such as a hi-hit or snare. The pitch of each instrument is also based on their onscreen placement, which is something you’ll quickly get to grips with when you start crafting your own levels, but more on that later.
The game in broken up in to four different worlds, or “albums” to use official term. Each album features both a different musician and visual artist, so near the start of the game you may be rolling around in dreary office designed by Sword & Sorcery’s Superbrothers, but by the end of it you’ll be soaring through a bright lit city while a majestic Beck provides the soundtrack.
There are 3-5 levels (or “tracks”) for each album and they last roughly 2-5 minutes apiece. Therefore, making it through Sound Shapes’ campaign shouldn’t take you much longer than an hour. However the campaign is just the start. Once you’ve rolled your way to end of the game you’ll unlock a Death Mode version of each level which will both captivate and frustrate you in equal parts!
Death Mode scraps the already established rules of the game and challenges you to collect a number of randomly placed icon within a very confined time limit. As the name implies, this mode can be extremely difficult but since the reward for completing each level is a silver PSN trophy, it instantaneously becomes impossible to resist!
Once you’ve discovered which key components make a level enjoyable you’ll be given the opportunity to construct your own levels and musical masterpieces. I’ve never been a fan or creating my own content (that’s what game designers are for!) but as someone who has already produced songs for some key industry figures *cough*50Cent&BustaRhymes*cough* I felt compelled to check it out.
Unfortunately all of my handcrafted levels were varying shades of terrible, so I decided to delay this review for a few days to see if the community fared any better… and of course they did! While the obvious Zelda/Mario knockoffs are present, there are already some fantastic user-created levels that have me excited about Sound Shapes’ potential longevity.
Although Sound Shapes was originally announced as a Playstation Vita exclusive, Sony has since made the decision to simultaneous release the game on the PS3 via the Playstation Network. While this may seem like an admission of the Vita’s commercial failures, the “buy one, get one free” pricing structure should negate any negative stigma that was bound to follow. Both the PS3 and Vita versions are pretty much identical and your save data can be synced back and forth across devices.
This review was based on a retail download copy of the game for the PlayStation Vita provided by Sony.