You may or may not have heard of Sound Shapes, a collaboration between small indie developer Queasy Games and the giant that is Sony Santa Monica Studios. The game offers a unique take on classic side-scrolling action, allowing you to listen to other player’s music, as well as giving you the ability to make your own.
Just like LittleBigPlanet, you can play through the various levels (known as Albums), create your own levels and share them with others, or you can hop online and play an unlimited amount of levels created by the wider community. Given that buying the PS3 version gets you the Vita version for free (and Vice Versa) and the fact that you can save your game to the cloud, allowing you to access it on any of your devices, for £9.99 it offers great value and plenty of content.
When you get your first look at Sound Shapes you may be a little confused, but it’s very simple to play. The aim of the game is to work your way through each level, collecting notes and avoiding hazards (which are usually represented by anything red in colour). There are surfaces which your character (represented by a circular flower-like object) can stick to, jump from and slide off, resulting in plenty of fun and a whole load of frustration as you work your way from one end of the screen to the next. As you collect the notes, the music will build up, so by the time you reach, say the third screen, the sounds will really have kicked off, allowing you to fill your ears with the pleasant sounds of electronic music.
Working your way through the different Albums mixes things up even more, suddenly your find yourself trying to avoid dangerous creatures, while at the same time solving puzzles; which could be anything from moving blocks to activating lifts, all of which require precision timing and a good ear for the music. Should your character fall to his death there are checkpoints to bring you back to life, so the action never really stops for long. The music really is the key to Sounds Shapes, so as long as you have a keen sense of rhythm you should eventually progress enough to get to the end of the level without falling into the red too much.
To help make things competitive, at the end of each level you are told how many notes you have collected and are given the time it took you to reach the end of the goal, which will then place you on a leaderboard, allowing you to compare times to everyone else who has beaten the level.
Although playing through the various levels is no doubt one of the highlights of the game, there is nothing quite like creating your own. Like I say, you are not just creating your own level here, but also your own music. It is ridiculously easy to create, thanks to the employed use of multitouch on the Vita’s front screen and back touch panel. The latter is used for editing shape locations and sizes, while the front screen allows you to place your shapes and edit other aspects, such as the colours and scenery. The editor also makes use of a full music scale which allows you to place your note on the screen and make the music you desire. The beauty is that as you play through the campaign you will unlock various instruments, terrains and creatures, meaning that you can have these available to you within the editor.
Once you are satisfied with both the level you have created and the music which it makes, you are then required to play through it once before you can publish it online. This is no doubt to make sure that you can actually get through it and that it’s not broken. As you’d expect, levels can be made as favourites and shared with the world, so if your creation is wonderful, it’ll soon be well talked about. At the time of writing there are lots of very innovative levels online already and these numbers will no doubt grow on the day of release.
Sound Shapes is colourful, addictive and well designed. It’s a budget title but it’s been designed with the philosophy of a full retail release and although I have to say that I’m not the biggest fan of electronic music, this does seem to fit the style and additive nature of this particular game, so I can forgive it on this occasion for not rocking out.
Although Sound Shapes is both a PS3 and Vita release, it seems that Vita is the main focus here. The game fits the handheld’s screen and nature perfectly. It’s easy to pick up and play in short bursts, but will equally draw you in for hours on end as you go about creating the perfect level. Sound Shapes could very well turn out to be one of the biggest PS Vita releases of the year, as well as being one of the best.
Review Policy (version tested: PS Vita/PS3/PSN)