The PlayStation network seems to be the go-to place for music or rhythm-based games lately, like Retro/Grade, Dyad and Sound Shapes. Sound Shapes has been one of Sony’s most anticipated titles, announced more than a year ago, when it was meant to be a Vita launch title and an exclusive for said handheld. Now, we finally have it, no longer a Vita exclusive since it shares its debut with its older brother, the PS3. But has all this time been worth the wait? I’m happy to say that it has. With its combination of simplistic yet beautiful and vibrant visuals, its excellent music, fun gameplay and robust level editor, Sound Shapes forms a package that every PS3/Vita owner should definitely get their hands on.
Sound Shapes features a campaign encompassing twenty levels strewn across five albums (six if you count the tutorial). Each album contains around four to five levels, each with its own song. The guys at Queasy Games collaborated with a number of artists to create both a distinctive set of songs and visuals for each of the albums. In the game you’ll hear music from Beck, Deadmau5, Jim Guthrie (of Sword and Sworcery fame), I Am Robot and more, accompanied by lovely visuals created by Superbrothers, Pyramid Attack, Vic Nguyen, Colin Mancer and PixelJam.
It is recommended that you play through the campaign first, since doing so not only nets you with a plethora of items to use in the level editor, but it also unlocks two other modes in: Beat Mode, where the game’ll task you with creating certain beats, and Death Mode, a set of timed challenges that require extreme precision and are surely to be a challenge for even the best of players.
In the game, you are a…blob that looks like a fried egg, and with said blob you’ll traverse various stages, from flowery gardens to snowy mountains. Each level is has an equalizer running behind it, and throughout the level there will be coins strewn around which you have to collect, each one of these being a note that will be played through the equalizer. The more you collect, the more complete the song becomes. You’re basically creating a song while picking up these coins, and if you want to be a perfectionist, almost everything you touch in the level gives of a sound, so if you time it right, you can even incorporate said sounds into the song as you go along. Other than the music element, the game is a pretty straight forward platformer. You can stick to any surface, except black ones, to make your way through the levels, and you can transform yourself into a ball to give you extra speed to make those long jumps. When doing so though, you lose your ability to stick to things.
Once you beat the campaign, you can go back to challenge your friends and the world in the leaderboards for the fastest completion time, or you can just dive back in and the play the levels over and over again. The music and visuals are so good and complement each other so well (especially in those last Beck levels), that you’ll gladly replay them over and over. Once you’re finished with that, the game also features a level creator so robust that you can re-create everything you saw in the campaign and beyond. It is only limited by your imagination. And if level design is not your thing, the community can upload their created levels, which you can browse through and play. Right now, there are more than a thousand levels and the number increases every day, so there is enough to keep you occupied for a long time. It’s only a matter of time until the community starts surpassing the campaign levels with their own creations.
The final bow in this delightful package is its distributing method. When you buy Sound Shapes, you get both the Vita and PS3 versions of the game. You can begin playing in one system and move to the other and continue where you left off thanks to the cloud sync feature. This means that any trophies you unlock in one of the versions is unlocked in the other once the sync is done, giving you two separate but tied trophy lists, perfect for trophy hunters. Both game run well in their respective systems, although I noticed a bit of hitching in the PS3 version that I never experienced in the Vita version. I personally prefer the Vita version, especially when creating a level or playing Beat Mode. The touch screen makes the interactions with these two modes much easier than using a controller. That said, you’ll get both versions and both are great, and the PS3 also has the advantage of being able to be hooked up into a surround sound system and enjoying the music at the volume you desire.
If there’s only one thing that could be leveled against Sound Shapes, it’s that the campaign itself is short. Since it’s so enjoyable, it’s sad when it ends so quickly (it’ll take you around 2 hours to beat it). But this is just a testament to how great Sound Shapes is, delivering such an enjoying assortment of songs and levels that you can’t help but want more. I think Queasy Games should take into consideration adding new albums into the game as DLC. I know many, me included, would buy and download these without thinking.
Sound Shapes wowed me from beginning to end. It had been a long time since I had turned on my Vita, but this excellent game gave me the perfect excuse to do so. It’s new and different, and because it dared to be so, it succeeded. If you own a Vita or a PS3, get off the computer and go buy the game. You won’t regret it.