Sound Shapes Review

When it was announced at E3 2011, Sound Shapes looked to bring something interesting to the Vita (then called the NGP) and, with that, interest in the portable system itself. While originally planned to be a launch title for the PSP’s successor, it was delayed in order for Queasy Games to bring it to the PlayStation 3 as well. Now, months after the Vita’s release, Sound Shapes is finally here and it does not disappoint.

While the platformer is one of the oldest game categories in history, Sound Shapes has managed to breathe fresh air into the stale, though fun, genre. While Mario runs around levels collecting coins, they serve a very minute purpose, but in Sound Shapes, collecting coins creates the music of the level. Starting as nothing more than a drum beat or a bass riff, the player brings the music to life by activating more parts of the song through these collectibles. On top of that, notable artists and musicians have provided their talents to create the music and art for the game's albums (the in-game worlds).

Platformers hardly stand out for their gameplay and, while Sound Shapes is not fully exempt from the rule, the game can still be commended on its tight controls and pick-up-and-play simplicity. The player controls an amorphous blob that must traverse levels from beginning to end while gathering as many of the music-making coins as possible. Players are incentivized to collect these coins to unlock items for use in the Little Big Planet-esque level creation system. While the single-player campaign only consists of twenty levels, finishing it unlocks two extra modes: Beat School and Death Mode. Beat School is all about matching a beat by placing notes on a grid. Death Mode, true to its name, are extremely difficult timed challenges based on a section of the level it shares its name with.

 

Going through the album "Corporeal" feels like entering a cross between Office Space and Sword and Sorcery.

 

One of the most interesting parts of Sound Shapes are the visuals. To go along with the music, artists such as Superbrothers, PixelJam, and Pyramid Attack have created individual art styles for each album. This helps to provide a fresh feeling for each world and manages to keep the gameplay from becoming stale, almost giving the impression that the player has access to multiple games. The art also brings the songs into being in an unexpectedly exceptional way.

Just like Rock Band is nothing without a killer setlist, Sound Shapes is nothing without the musicians that provide the soundtrack. Thankfully, Queasy Games had big names like Jim Guthrie, Deadmau5, and Beck to lend their talents, injecting their styles into stages that stand out in a whole new way. For example, when playing through the first level of "Cities," Beck’s album, the lyrics affect how the player must traverse the level, requiring more precise timing and adding an extra layer of difficulty. There is also a wide variety of rhythmic styles, ranging from hauntingly beautiful to fun and upbeat.

 

Better make it across those clouds before Beck's singing fades out or you'll fall to your fiery death.

 

In an effort to promote the console's on-the-go mentality that Sony is trying so hard to achieve, the console and Vita versions of Sound Shapes are able to share a cloud save (you get both versions when buying either) so as not to lose progress when switching between the two. This would be helpful, but so far many consumers have had trouble syncing saves, forcing them to replay levels that were previously completed or wait for server issues to be fixed.

Besides the current connection problems, Sound Shapes is an amazing new title. Not only does it bring something original to the platforming table, it also gives a fantastic game for the less-than-popular PSN to hold in high esteem. Hopefully more artists and musicians will be brought on to create new DLC for Sound Shapes. The mere twenty stages don't last long and leave the player hungry for more.

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Queasy Games
Release Date: August 7, 2012
Number of Players: 1 
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Vita (Reviewed)

Josh Kowbel's picture

Nice job on this review Chris. I've heard nothing but good things about Sounds Shapes, but I'm not a fan of the art style. I can see the value in the pick-up-and-play portability, though, as music games rarely hold my attention over extended sessions. 

christothefirst's picture

Thanks! I was worried this wasn't going to be any good after a few months of not writing.

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