One of the most anticipated PlayStation games of 2012 has to be independent developer Queasy Games’ Sound Shapes available for both PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita. Perhaps what drew so much hype around Sound Shapes was just how original its concept was as well as big artists getting involved such as Deadmau5 and Beck. It could also be due to users getting excited about being able to create their own levels and share them with the world. Does Sound Shapes deliver as the ultimate musical platformer or does it falter under the demanding hype?
Sound Shapes is a basic 2D platformer like New Super Mario Bros. or LittleBigPlanet. You play as some sort of blob and your goal is to get from one end of a level to the other by moving and jumping. What makes Sound Shapes different from other platformers is how it incorporates music. Every level is a song. Throughout each level, there are circles scattered around different areas. Each circle represents a note of the song. At first, you can only hear noises that the enemies and obstacles around you make, but as you collect the notes, the music slowly evolves from one note into a whole song. This is a concept that has never been done before and Queasy Games pulled it off spectacularly.
Throughout the game’s campaign, you play through five different albums, each with three to five songs. Each album represents a different artist including Jim Guthrie, Deadmau5, Beck, and two albums from I Am Robot and Proud. Every album offers slightly different music. All albums except for Beck’s album consists of pretty much techno music. Being a fan of rock music, the Beck levels were easily my favorite. The campaign is relatively short, only taking me maybe 4 hours to finish. Although this is true, there is plenty of variety in each level to make it feel like a worthwhile experience. While the game is unfortunately short, there’s more to do when the campaign ends. When you complete all of the levels, you unlock Death Mode which takes certain parts of different levels and turns them into challenge levels. In each Death Mode level, you have to collect a certain amount of notes within a time limit, all the while avoiding obstacles. You only get one life which makes these challenges frustratingly tough. Fortunately though, you do earn a silver trophy in your PlayStation Network account for every Death Mode level you beat.
On the other side of Sound Shapes is the level editor where you can create your own tunes and levels. You start off with a blank play field and start creating by laying down notes by holding down a finger on the PlayStation Vita’s screen or holding X on a PS3 controller. Once all your notes are placed and you have made a tune you like, you can fill your level with platforms, enemies, obstacles, and scenery. If you’d rather build your level first and then start making the music of your level, you can do that too. Playing around with the level editor is pretty addicting. On the PlayStation Vita version of the game, all of the editing is done using the touch screen and rear touch panel. This causes everything to be as simple as dropping and dragging. The level editor in Sound Shapes is easily the best level editor I’ve seen to date on any console or handheld. Even with just buttons on the PlayStation 3′s controller, creating is still super easy and intuitive. Any person can pick this up and understand it in seconds. It doesn’t take a whole lot of skill to build a great level which will make creating levels appealing to just about everyone. When you beat the game’s campaign, you unlock Death Mode and you unlock Beat School. Beat School forces you to recreate songs on the level editor by just hearing them. This is a lot of fun as you will have to figure out what notes fit in what place. Those who have studied music or play an instrument will be much better at this mode than others who aren’t so fluent in music. Every time you complete a Beat School challenge, just like Death Mode, you earn a trophy for your PlayStation Network account.
And finally, what is the point of making levels if you can’t share them? Once you have created a level you like, you can upload it to the web for other Sound Shapes players to play. In the community section of Sound Shapes, you can see the most played levels, the newest releases, or search for a specific level. The levels made by your PlayStation Network friends and the levels they are playing will appear on your newsfeed in the game so finding the levels your friends like is super easy. Some of the user created content so far has been really cool. Lots of remixes of existing songs as well as tricky levels that require precision. One improvement I would like to see in the future is the ability to rate levels and leave comments, much like what LittleBigPlanet already does. It is easy to see what levels people are playing most and what levels people are adding to their favorites list, but it is hard to determine what levels are actually good. The future of Sound Shapes looks bright, and with downloadable content releasing in the near future, creators will get even more tools to build awesome levels.
In terms of how the game looks and sounds, Sound Shapes is a very pretty game. The bright animated visuals look amazing on both the PlayStation Vita’s OLED screen and on your TV via a PlayStation 3 in 1080p. With the cloud sync feature, you can sync up progress between the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita versions. This way, you can start making a level or bookmark levels you want to play on one system and play them on whichever one you like. When you buy one version of Sound Shapes, you get the other version you didn’t buy for free. So if you’re playing the game on PlayStation 3 and happen to get a PlayStation Vita, you can download the Vita version of Sound Shapes for free and sync up your progress so you can play right when you left off on your PlayStation 3. And speaking of sound, that’s the game’s specialty. Of course the music in the game is awesome and you can make you own tunes. If there’s no music you like, you can always create your own in the level editor.
For the low price of $15, Sound Shapes is one of the best deals on PlayStation Network. The game is also one of the best games available on all current PlayStation platforms. Once you begin to play Sound Shapes, you will not want to stop. And the good news is that you don’t have to. With users publishing levels all the time, there is an unlimited amount of fun to be had. Sound Shapes is a game that can appeal to anyone. It’s simple to understand and tough to master. Be sure to do yourself a favor and play Sound Shapes. It’s an interactive experience that is both mesmerizing and unforgettable.