Sound Shapes (Vita) Review
Music plays a massive part in our daily lives, music is used as something to pass the time, provide some fantastic background noise for parties and events or even to alert you of such important things as the location of the ice cream van. Queasy Games has been able to capture that daily reliance on music within the confines of their latest title, Sound Shapes. Designed by Jonathan Mak and Shaw-Han-Liem, Sound Shapes is a 2D-side scrolling platformer, based around the presence of music to not only tingle our ear waves but guide us through the world they have created.
You control a fried-egg-yolk shaped character as they make their way through challenging stages; these stages include small round musical notes that you can try and collect during the level. Collecting these musical notes will add beats and tones to the song being played throughout that level, the more you collect the more the song builds as you go. Music will often give you the idea that danger is near, or listening to the music will allow you to navigate levels easier, the implementation of musical elements is so simple, yet brilliant. These tunes range from tracks dedicated to bass, 8-bit and even slight dub step elements. Sound Shapes provides a fun, unique romp through some brilliantly designed levels, but leaves you begging for more by game’s end.
First and foremost, Sound Shapes offers no story, so if games that only focus on progressing through levels with no basis as to why frustrate you, this game is not for you. The main campaign of Sound Shapes is set out into 5 separate albums; each album contains a unique set of levels (20 levels in total) from 5 separate composers. The composers have designed their songs to work well with collecting the notes located in the levels; missing notes can actually change the tone of the entire song as it could be missing a cord or a certain beat. This adds to the games replay value as you can traverse through the stage missing certain notes, to see what other variations of sound you could create. Sound Shapes provides stages from some very talented composers, such as Deadmau5, Beck and Jim Guthrie.
The levels themselves provide a good deal of variety, you traverse the levels in a style similar to Mutant Blobs being able to cling to the environment and using it to your advantage to clear the stage. Though they can be challenging, most levels do not come close to eclipsing the 10 minute to complete. With save points scattered very generously, you can easily throw away lives quickly enough to finish the level in quick time. This is one of Sound Shapes major problems, the game is very short if you are just going to play the campaign, complete and move on. This could take about 3 hours or less depending how skilled you are, sure the experience is extremely fun but with the 20 levels being completed so easily, this leaves you wanting more, yet none exist.
Sound Shapes also allows you to select any of the 5 albums available in any order, which was a simple option that felt very welcoming, allowing you to change up the music if you wanted something different. Though it contains a short campaign you will unlock Death Mode when it’s completed. If the name didn’t give it away, these are 20 levels that will provide great frustration. These levels give you a very short time limit, in-which to collect a certain amount of musical notes, these provide a terrific challenge. For those who loved punishing themselves in Trials prepare to feel right at home, with constant death and restarting being your main gameplay elements.
Queasy Games has been able to create a 2D-platformer that relies heavily on audio and visual elements to provide a fun experience. This reliance feels fresh, the gameplay is fairly simplistic with directional buttons being used to move, along with your characters ability to roll and jump also included, this is by no means revolutionary. The jump mechanic itself felt floaty, very similar to LittleBigPlanet. When mastered the jump can be very critical, especially during Death Mode, pin-point accuracy is the key.
Sound Shapes also provides simplistic online leaderboard systems for players to compete with their friends, for high score glory. Players are also given a Create a Level Mode, where they can use objects they unlock during the campaign to create their own online level for other players to download and enjoy. I am not the most talented gamer when it comes to create modes and this was no different, but the creating process is quite fun trying to figure out where the incorporation of notes and level obstacles can coexist in a slick manner. This could be an online feature that provides players with that extra content they may be craving, after the short campaign.
Lastly the main element that really struck me was the visual style the game offers; each of the 5 albums provides its own unique art style, which looks absolutely gorgeous. The game blew me away in terms of variety when it came to each different style, with Beck’s album being the absolute standout. In similar vein to the legendary Beetles art style that was showcased during The Yellow Submarine, the album feels like an amazing journey of its own. Lyrics appear on screens as actual living platforms, this was done perfectly making you feel as if the song itself has come alive, and words cannot express how cool this is to experience.
Sound Shapes doesn’t try to revolutionize the 2D-platformer, with very simplistic gameplay Sound Shapes relies on its focus of visual and audio elements to provide an amazing experience, which Queasy Games has been able to accomplish. The campaign provides a fun experience, but with such an abundance of checkpoints throughout the level, the game never dares to punish (except for Death Mode) the player looking for some quick gaming fun on-the-go. Sound Shapes is priced at an acceptable rate, but with such a short campaign and the extra modes providing an extreme difficulty spike, gamers may be finished with the game very quickly. The game may be given some legs if a talented creator community is established via the Level Creator.
Sound Shapes is an excellent experience, providing some of the best visual and audio cues in a long time. Is your Vita collecting dust? Well Sound Shapes is a delightful purchase for any gamer.
- Excellent incorporation of music
- Unique gorgeous art styles
- Great track list
- Create a Level Mode
- Quite short
- Basic gameplay
- Too many save points take away from challenging levels
Jamie Briggs believes Sound Shapes would be a hippies dream game. He also runs Analog Addiction where you can find all his latest reviews, interviews and features and also like them on Facebook. Also follow his daily life on Twitter @AnalogAddiction and his videos on YouTube.