Dropping Some Mad Beats – Sound Shapes Review For PS Vita
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation Vita.
Every once in a while a great and unique idea comes along that puts a fresh twist on an old formula, reinventing a genre. In this case, the genres are platforming and rhythm, and the game is the downloadable PSN game, Sound Shapes, for PlayStation 3 and Vita. Does the combination of platform mechanics with minimalist styled techno music jump nicely to the beat, or is this a record that’s full of bumps and skips?
Sound Shapes is one of those PSN titles that opts out of a storyline and instead focuses purely on gameplay. As mentioned, the game is a platformer where players take control of a fried-egg-looking creature with the goal of moving the creature from room to room to get from point A to point B. To help navigate, the gamer’s character has two forms it can switch between at the press of a button: the basic egg-like form or a ball. In the sunnyside-up form, players move a little slower but can stick to any light-coloured object. Changing to a ball however, the ability to stick disappears, but gamers can roll a lot faster to make longer jumps – this change is also used to unstick yourself from an object in order to fall. This form-changing mechanic is basically Sound Shapes’ version of sprinting in other titles; nevertheless, it is an interesting and fresh spin on the genre.
Another fresh take on an old game mechanic is the use of coins. Throughout levels, players will come across coloured coins, in a similar fashion as games featuring a certain Italian plumber. However, these coins have a different purpose than simple currency or 1-ups. In the background, players will usually hear the basic theme and beat of a song, and each coin found along the way adds either a note or riff into the mix – the more you pick up the more active the track is. This is what truly sets Sound Shapes apart from other platformers, as the rhythms and tones shape each round; enemies and objects will move to the song’s beat, creating percussive or melodic sounds, and every coin collected further progresses the development of the song. What this creates is a platforming experience where players can time all their movements to the beat of the track to avoid hazards more easily, while simultaneously being pulled into the game with a toe-tapping soundtrack that is ever evolving as they play. Whether or not you’re a die-hard music fan, it’s an experience you’ll be sure to enjoy.
Like any platforming game, there are several pitfalls, traps, and hazards to avoid in Sound Shapes. However, everything that could potentially harm you is easy to spot, as they will be the only things in the entire level that are coloured red. It doesn’t matter what it is: a spikey pit between pillars, a flower shape you’ve come across before, a mechanical press, laser beams, or a fluffy kitten that just wants to lick your face – if it’s red then it’s going to kill you. By making every hazard one set colour, players will always be able to spot what to avoid, regardless of the aesthetics and colour-scheme of that specific level (which is a very convenient and welcomed touch that ensures any gamer can pick it up and play without issue).
Should you run into a hazard and perish, fear not! Each area in a level has at least one checkpoint which is activated upon touch. Should you fail anywhere, you’ll simply respawn at the last one you came across. However, it should be noted that when you die and return to a point it will be the exact point in time in which you touched it, returning any coins picked up. This also creates an annoying jump similar to a CD or record skipping, breaking the title’s rhythm and immersion. While returning the collected items is understandable, the game would have benefited from respawning the player at the beginning of the next bar of music, instead of randomly in the middle of it.
Much like the LittleBigPlanet series, Sound Shapes features an in-depth level editor for players to make their own worlds and songs. The designer itself is fairly easy to understand, and players will have access to the various set pieces and hazards from official levels after clearing them. A handy tutorial mission is available to teach users how to utilize each piece of the editor, which is a blessing, as learning to edit without guidance is a pain. All of the tools available in the editor can design levels of the same quality as the official ones, and many gamers worldwide have created very impressive worlds. These creations can all be accessed online (presumably through streaming) without the need to download them, making load times no longer than the main game’s. All in all, the level editor is an amazing edition to the title and adds virtually limitless replayability. As long as gamers keep their creative juices flowing, Sound Shapes can go on forever!
From a graphics standpoint, Sound Shapes is actually really interesting to behold. Each level has its own unique flair, with designs and colours covering every end of the spectrum. In places, the title looks bright and cartoon-y, almost as though it was drawn in Microsoft Paint, pulling character design from the classic Space Invaders; while other areas have finer, darker, and more artsy detail to them, portraying the inner workings of an office building. Regardless of design (which is stellar overall), the quality of each environment is just stunning. The title is free of any obnoxious texture pop or tearing, and every line and curve is handled with great detail. Sound Shapes is a game that delivers both great creativity and quality in its visual presentation and is overall a great treat for the eyes.
Of course, though, Sound Shapes wouldn’t be half the game it is without its amazing soundtrack. Composed mostly of techno beats and sounds from composers like Deadmau5, Beck, and Jim Gutherie, the actual soundtrack is fairly varied in terms of styles. Some songs take a slower approach, factoring in actual instruments like the banjo, while others have a more upbeat, synthetic style. However, while there is some variety, they share one thing in common: quality. Each and every song is written brilliantly and stylishly, and players are sure to be bobbing their heads while playing – if not stopping mid-room to just listen for a minute! If there is an actual music release available for purchase, you can guarantee I’ll be adding Sound Shapes’ soundtrack to my personal music library, as this is one of the best collections of songs I’ve ever heard.
Whether you’re a fan of platforming, art, techno beats, or all of the above, Sound Shapes is one PSN release you’re not going to want to miss. From great gameplay to amazing music, everything here is wrapped up in one very neat, flashy package. Break out those turntables, throw in your headphones, and start rocking out to these crazy jams!
Final Score: 4.75 / 5.0 and a weird sunnyside-up egg character dropping some mad beats!
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