Somewhere along the line, I made a horrible mistake. I’m not quite sure why, but I never paid attention to the marketing of a little game called Sound Shapes. Not long ago, Sony decided to put it on sale. Seeing it praised time and time again, I decided to purchase it on a whim, merely after watching a short gameplay video. Boy, I’m glad I did! I just wish I would have noticed it sooner.
Much of my ignorance came from a busy holiday season, and not really knowing what the game was about. I would have probably seen the error of my ways had someone simply bludgeoned me over the head and said, “Joey, you like music, right? And 2D platforming? What are you, some kind of idiot?,” (The answers to each which I would have replied an emphatic, “Yes!”) So if you’re that blissfully blind sap, here is your wakeup call: Sound Shapes is FAN-fucking-TASTIC!!!
The game plays out like your standard 2D platformer. For the most part, you control this little amoeboid ball who has to make his way – usually by traveling to the right – to and from a turntable. You can jump, stick to certain surfaces, and run to cross larger gaps. Shades of red are used to represent various hazards, which present themselves statically in the environment, or as dynamic enemies and projectiles. Some levels later in the game stray drastically from this formula, but 2D platforming is always emphasized. These mechanics are simple, but do an excellent job in serving as the vehicle to usher in the game’s overall brilliance: the music.
The campaign is made up of five distinct albums, each containing four to five tracks. These EPs are all the result of collaborative efforts between noteworthy musicians and graphic artists. Under his moniker I Am Robot and Proud, one of the game’s designers, Shaw-Han Liem, starts things off with help from Vic Nguyen for the delightful Hello, World. From there, Superbrothers and Jim Guthrie keep their classic look for the corporate office themed, CORPEREAL. Then it’s back to I Am Robot and Proud for Beyonder, with some impressive mechanical and aquatic visuals from Colin Mancer. Next, Deadmou5 and Pixeljam pay homage to classic gaming with D-Cade. And finally, Beck and Pyramid Attack bring things to a beautiful close with Cities. Some tracks stood out against others. “Aquatica” from Beyonder added entirely new mechanics that were literally jaw dropping, while “Break-a-noids” from D-Cade added a much loved brick breaker theme.
The musical element and its intermingling is the uniquely astounding component of the game. Tracks start out with minimal noise, but though exploration and coin collecting, transform themselves into hypnotic rhythms. They evolve and devolve with every passing screen, and you can custom tailor that progression by choosing what to, or not to, collect. The completionist in me opted to collect all coins, though I’m kind of curious to play back through picking and choosing. Platforms, hazards, and mechanisms bristle with life, cleverly adding to the cacophonous harmony. The experience is simply intoxicating. It only took a few minutes before I was bobbing my head like a Butabi brother at the Roxbury.
The visuals aren’t of the highest fidelity. While each level does look nice, there’s not a lot happening on screen and finer details are minimal. However, the variation of art styles makes up for it. Allowing so many creative individuals to bring their unique flavor means no two albums are even remotely the same.
Then there’s the games editor. Like a good variety of Sony’s games, Sound Shapes includes the ability to create your own levels and play others’ creations. Add that to the main campaign, the death mode challenges for each level, and the beat matching challenges and there’s plenty of content to justify the cost. Plus, there’s the promise of new DLC albums this year!
Sound Shapes is an experience like no other. It’s simply one of the coolest games I’ve ever played. If you are a music aficionado, or even remotely a fan of 2D platforming, you must experience it. If for some odd reason you don’t like those two things: First off what the hell is wrong with you! And secondly, play it anyway! It will probably change your perception. With cross-play between the PS3 and the Vita, Sony fans have no excuse not to. Don’t make the same mistake I made. Going in, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Almost immediately, I was absolutely astounded! That’s one hell of a feeling, and one that’s rare to come across.
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- Quality collaborative efforts mesh well to form something truly unique.
- Stellar art direction compliments the audio.
- Simple mechanics accentuate the sensory satisfaction.
- Silent loading screens seem boring by comparison.
- On rare occasions, skipped beats upon loading or death take away from the music’s flow.
- Graphical and audio fidelity, as well as editor options, leave room for improvement.