Developer: Queasy Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 3
Genre: Music, Platform
Release Date: August 7th, 2012
The music genre of gaming has awakened with a refreshing new light. Queasy Games’ Jonathan Mak, known for his work on Everyday Shooter, has brought forth a game that “creates the music around you”. Sound Shapes has delighted the adoration of music in the player and heightened its significance in gaming by allowing the player to create their own music to share with the community, along with play some brilliant stages with renowned artists and musicians.
Available as a digital download through the PSN PLAY 2012 program, Sound Shapes is a side-scrolling platformer with over 20 levels that engage the player in the creation of the music in the stages. Rolling around, as a blob-like figure, the purpose of the game is to activate the music by collecting little circles, or coins, which will stimulate different ingredients in the song of the stage. These are sound effects that add to the song, whether it is from a drum, keyboard, bass, strings, or even vocals. There is a great inclusion of sound bites that bring the track together. The items unlocked, when coins are collected, will be saved as that sound bite for later use in the player-creation mode. Once all components are collected, the track is complete and then the journey continues to complete the next song of the current album. It is much like a music scale that is laid out in segments for the player to obtain, while moving through the stage. The song is being played out as each item is unlocked, since collecting coins adds notes to the music.
Skipping out on certain notes, or coins, will allow the player to hear different variations of the tracks, since each coin plays its own part of the song. Although, it is more beneficial, points wise, and for a sense of accomplishment, to collect them all.
There are 5 albums in the campaign and one tutorial album. The tutorial album contains a track titled Campaign Tutorial and one called Editor Tutorial. Each will highlight the various basics needed to play the game’s campaign and to make stages.
Each campaign record, or stage, consists of original artwork by various artists. Vic Nguyen from Capy (Capybara Games) provided the art for Hello World, the game’s first album. Any fan of Capy’s PSN/iOS Critter Crunch will see the relation in one of the stages that features a series of vines hanging down, similar to those that the critters on the game hang from.
Superbrothers lend their talent for the art for the game’s second album (stage), CORPOREAL. Superbrothers previously worked on the design, along with Capy on Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, which released on iOS and PC. This album features more of an office setting feel, similar to the artwork from Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP.
The third ablum, Beyonder, features art from Colin Mancer. Mancer brings forth more serene visuals to a chaotic world of enchantment.
Pixeljam joins in with the album D-Cade. Taking some of us back to our roots, Pixeljam delivers a classic Space Invaders feel to the game and pays homage to 8bit gaming roots.
Steve Wilson of Pyramid Attack takes over the Cities album with visuals of cities in utter chaos. Flames and wrecking balls taking down buildings, missiles falling from the sky, and large missiles that the player must avoid its explosion, have engulfed this album.
Sound Shapes provides original music for each of the five campaign records. Brilliant musicians have provided sounds, loops, and rhythms to a dedicated set of levels.
The album Hello World shares music from Canadian electronic artist, I Am Robot and Proud. The album is a chipper up-beat experience to start off with. I Am Robot and Proud also provides the music for the game’s third album, Beyonder. Jim Guthrie, who was nominated for a Juno Award for his album Now, More Than Ever, lends his music for the CORPOREAL album on Sound Shapes. deadmau5 provided sounds, loops, and rhythms to the album D-Cade that mix and mingle with the retro art of the level. The Cities album includes three never-heard-before tracks by Beck, "Cities", "Touch the People", and "Staircase". This is the only album that features singing, alongside of the music and is definitely the perfect album to end the campaign, although the albums do not have to be played in a specific order.
Not only did they compose music for the game’s campaign, but they are also added to your library of items collected from the campaign to use when constructing stages. Since the stages are much like a music scale, coins located at different locations of the screen, will play different octaves of notes. Coins that are closer to the top of the screen, play a higher note and those closer to the bottom, play a lower note. Every object in each level of the stages makes their own sounds that contribute to the overall song. This is why it is fun to make sure every coin is collected to unlock every portion of each track.
The mechanics work extremely well. To control the blob-like figure, the player uses the left analogue stick or the directional pad, and to jump, the player simply presses the "X" button. While collecting coins to add the notes to the music, it is important to be aware of the colors of the elements in the game. Red colored items are dangerous and will kill the player if they are touched. These can be lasers, enemies, fire, or even red platforms that the player must avoid. Light colored grounds are beneficial as the character can stick to them, but cannot stick to dark objects. The character will then be able to stick from objects up high and hang for hard to get coins. For a further platform, the player holds down the "square" or the “R” button to become a ball to jump further and move faster. Checkpoints are located throughout the stages, which really helps for those challenging levels. However, when the player takes on the ball-form, the character no longer sticks and various strategies are necessary to complete the level.
Each level, or album, will introduce various functions of gameplay into Sound Shapes. The CORPOREAL album opens up elevators to continue to another section of the level. Allowing for entry into different sections of the stage, the player must plan his course of action, all while collecting the coins to complete the song. This album is the only one that changes up the platformer element by including some puzzle strategies, in order to complete it.
There are spaceships that are available to get through various points of the game. Bubbles will also drift the player upward, as well as bouncing on certain platforms that spring upwards. Certain enemies will also lend a hand in this action when being jumped upon.
In essence, the object of Sound Shapes is to get to the record player at the end of the stage, collecting coins, in record time.
Sound Shapes offers a level editing feature that allows players to make their own levels and add components to create the world the way they want it to look and sound. All of the music and artwork from the campaign can be used to create a unique level or track. Setting up the level is extremely easy, by going into the toolbox of collected items and holding down the area of desired placement. Items can be moved around the level with the front touch screen and can be enlarged, made smaller, or changed from horizontal to vertical, by using two fingers on the back touchscreen. If the player decides to reuse the item multiple times in the same level, there is a button that duplicates it and allows it to be moved and placed. Since the PS Vita offers the front and back touch screens, it makes the experience of the level editing easier to place the notes. The level can be created first and then the music can be added to the level afterwards, or however the player feels comfortable. The customization of levels is all in the hands and creativity of the player.
In addition to the inclusion of more than 20 challenging levels in the campaign, there is a lasting appeal to create an ever-changing musical community to dive into and play user-generated stages. The player can compose full levels to upload to the community. The player-creation mode is extremely easy to work with and makes anyone feel like a composer because adding various elements into the level adds their own special sounds to create an entirely new song, with every component added. There is also a tutorial for creating levels to explain the level editing feature. Once a level is created, the player will be inspired to make more, using various ideas with not only the level items, but the music as well to make an entirely different experience each time.
Beat School is a mode that is opened up after the campaign is completed and is offered to those who are a little hesitant on their level creation skills. Beat School challenges players to listen and match beats that are already created, by requiring them to create beats on a single screen. Once this is completed, this will work as a motivation to move onto creating entire levels to upload and share.
Downloadable content for new albums is definitely something we would like to see. This would offer new art and music to add to the campaign and to use for the player-generated levels. Not only would DLC provide more campaign records to play with new artists and musicians, but also items to use in the level editing feature, adding even more refreshed community levels to play.
The game is offered as a download through PlayStation Network for an extremely reasonable $14.99. If that deal is not enough to entice the pocket, the best part of all is if the game is downloaded through the PS Vita, the game can also be played on the PlayStation 3, and vice versa! Not only is Sound Shapes cross-purchasable but the game offers cross-save compatibility, which makes the game even more worth the purchase.
Once the campaign records are completed, Death Modes for each record are opened up. The Death Modes flip the album over to its b-side and challenges the player with intense, single-screen timed challenges to test the skills learned in the levels. For those who go Trophy hunting, most of the game’s Trophies are unlocked through the Death Modes.
You will also find himself going back to play levels to beat your previous scores and then challenging yourself beat your friends on the leaderboards, offering even more replay value, alongside the endless player created stages.
Sound Shapes allows you to test the waters of music creation by allowing the player's actions to make the music in this side-scrolling platformer. Developer, Queasy Games, allows the player to take it a step further and share their musical creations with the rest of the Sound Shapes community. While the game’s campaign is not very long, it does offer up a relaxing, yet challenging, experience through unique art and exceptional music. I enjoyed the artistic quality, matched with the music that sets the mood for the levels, giving each album its own personality. I highly recommend playing the game with headphones to enjoy the game at an entirely different level and maximize the Sound Shape experience. Endless fun can be found in the player created stages; it is exciting to see the interesting stages that are created by the community.
Should I even remind you that Sound Shapes can be played on both your PS Vita on the go, or amplified through your surround sound system on your PlayStation 3? That point, coupled with the game's lasting appeal and $14.99 price tag, you get more than your money's worth in enjoyment.
I believe that Sounds Shapes has done its part in rejuvenating the music genre in gaming and helping its relevance once again. Sound Shapes is definitely one of the top PS Vita games and the price is extremely reasonable for the experience that is offered through the game.
I truly feel that Sound Shapes is a game that is a journey into sound.