Sound Shapes Review (PS Vita)

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Sound Shapes

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Queasy Games revitalises the platforming genre with its melodical masterpiece

We like

  • The way the soundtrack builds throughout the levels is totally unique and absorbing
  • Strong themes and level design throughout campaign ensures platforming gameplay is entertaining
  • Level editor and ability to share creations with community adds infinite replay value

We dislike

  • Level editor issue - Icons really need words to explain what you're selecting

See PSU's review on Metacritic & GameRankings

Music has always had the power to enhance your video game experience. A well-crafted soundtrack can lighten and darken the mood at will, raise your heartbeat as you enter a ferocious battle, and tug at your heart strings when a hero falls. In Queasy Games’ Sound Shapes music is the game; it’s what drives the whole experience. Unlike a rousing orchestral score though, the ambient soundtrack serves to absorb you in its gameplay rather than pull your emotions in different directions.

On the surface, Sound Shapes appears to be a fairly standard 2D side-scrolling platformer in which players control a blob through five themed stages, leaping from platform to platform, avoiding dangerous obstacles, and picking up coins. But beyond its simplistic outer-shell, the toe-tapping, head nodding soundtrack, clever level design and in-depth editing tools totally revitalises this age-old genre in what proves to be one of Vita’s finest modestly priced (£9.99) offerings so far.

Each of the five themed stages play host to a different soundtrack from the likes of Jim Guthrie, I am Robot and Proud and Beck. Ambient trance, trippy beats and deep bass-lines merge with a variety of musical styles throughout the stages and completely encompass your senses. Each level begins in silence and as players interact with objects and collect coins the audio experience builds. The coins collected are actually notes and the higher they appear in the level the higher the pitch of the tone that plays, and vice versa. The more coins you collect, the richer and fuller the soundtrack becomes.

Sound Shapes takes things a step further than just soundtrack building though because every object you interact with makes a sound that adds another layer of audio. The firing of a laser or the stomping of a piston, for instance, has its own unique sound that complements the musical track. Furthermore, the sound that some of these objects make serves as an audio clue to help you judge when to make a jump in between a set of lasers or when to time your dash under a piston. By the time we’d reached mid-point in most levels we found ourselves engrossed, nodding our heads and tapping our feet in time to the music.

The highlight in Sound Shapes musical journey is a stage called Cities, with a synthesised soundtrack written by American singer-songwriter Beck. Cities is the only stage that features singing, which is also woven impressively into the gameplay. As the words “Move it, break it and Turn it” are sung, for example, suspended platforms react accordingly, shifting, disappearing and twisting, adding a new challenge to completing the level.

Without the music, Sound Shapes is a fairly rudimentary platformer in terms of mechanics, though level design is extremely impressive. The blob is controlled with the analogue stick, ‘X’ allows you to jump and there’s also the ability to curl up in a ball to dash, which also gives you extra height to make bigger jumps. Each level uses colour to give you visual clues as to what you need to avoid and what you can use to navigate the levels. Red objects, for instance, will kill you, but sticking to light-coloured objects allows you to carve a safe path through the red-tinted environments. Typically, it’s a case of timing runs and jumps to avoid projectiles and obstacles, though there’s also a small degree of puzzle-solving in some levels.

Though the graphics aren’t cutting-edge, level design is strong with a variety of different environments to navigate from snowy levels complete with platforms made of ice that break under your feet to water-themed levels where the blob can float around obstacles and utilise jet streams for extra momentum.

Among the highlights is the Cities stage where the level design steps up another notch and the dream-like environment suits Beck's music perfectly. Our favourite stage however is the Superbrothers Corporeal levels which boast some great art design with its high rise buildings and corporate environments. Here, you navigate offices filled with servers and jump on the heads of briefcase-carrying workers to activate doors to take you to the next area. There’s a degree of puzzle-solving in this stage too as you shift boxes around to leap to a higher area or use them to trigger a portal. Gameplay flows nicely and it’s really ... (continued on next page) ----

A gamer since the days of the ZX Spectrum, Steven Williamson now works as General Manager for PSU. He's supposed to be managing, but if you're reading this, it means he's dipped into editorial again. Follow @steven_gamer
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