In Sound Shapes
you play as a delightful animated blob who rolls and jumps around levels in delirious Loco Roco
style. in your regular form, you’ll stick to light coloured surfaces, while pulling the trigger will change you into a faster, denser, generally unsticky version – all the better for quick escapes and larger jumps.
The action unfolds as a 2D platformer with high contrast visuals that are crisp and easy to understand. In the world of Sound Shapes
– red means dead so the aim is to keep away from any claret surfaces or enemies as you try to reach the other side of the screen.
Superficially, that’s all there is to the regular campaign portion of Sound Shapes
and it’s a perfectly pleasing platformer, with responsive controls and a smooth, near casual difficulty level that gets a little more twitchy as the stages progress.
But delve a little further for there’s plenty more to see.
As you travel through the levels, you can pick up brightly coloured coins. Each of these adds a musical note to the scene, deftly woven into the score for your current section. More coins equal more beats and as the game progresses enemies and traps will also add their notes to the melody. What’s more, there’s a function to these sounds; if you can get in time with their metronomic movements you’ll find they help you navigate the screen, dodging and jumping as you go. It’s a truly enveloping gaming experience.
Once you’ve beaten the campaign you’ll also unlock a further two modes – Death Mode and Beat School. The first is a series of tricky levels that will challenge your thumbs while the second will test your musical skills, forcing you to create accurate melodies to survive.
As if that wasn’t enough, Santa Monica Studio
and Queasy Games
have also included a level designer in Sound Shapes
. It’s one of the most fluid we’ve ever played with (even on the handheld Vita), letting you place objects with the touchscreen and transform them with the rear touch pad.
But it’s not just a way to expand your play time with more levels, placing objects and items in the world helps you build up musical notes in the same way the campaign does. The height of a coin determines which note it plays, and each screen appears as a grid. It’s surprisingly simple to use and with a little determination (and some musical skill) you’ll find it relatively simple to craft an interactive musical masterpiece.
A single (modest) purchase also gives you two versions of Sound Shapes
– for both Vita and PS3. Saves can be synced between the systems and carefully crafted levels transfer with ease, letting you show off your creations on a larger canvas. In truth, the creation controls are a touch (literally) more accessible on the Vita but the art looks just as good on both consoles, while you’ll get the chance to hear music from the likes of Beck and deadmau5 on your beefy home system.Sound Shapes
is a truly unique title – providing engagement for those who want a quick and simple platformer, as well as online leaderboards for score whores, more complex challenges for hardcore players and a fully featured level designer which gives the game genuine longevity. Coming some six months after the launch of the Vita, it gives players a chance to experience the innovation the handset is capable of, while also opening the door for home console owners.
There may not be much fanfare over the release but Sound Shapes
is arguably the best title currently available on the PSVita and might be the first step on the road to truly legitimising the system.Sound Shapes is available now in North America and arrives on PSN in Europe on the 15th of August for €15.