Have you ever dreamt of being a cell-shaded blob? Rolling and jumping around a colourful, 2D environment collecting strange shapes that increase an ever expanding, funk-tastic soundtrack with each acquisition? Before playing Sound Shapes I can’t say that the idea had ever occurred to me, but after just a few minutes it seemed like it was my life’s calling.
Sound Shapes is a game that has been caught on the fringes of release for a while now. Its original release date was set some six months ago but only now has it materialised on to the PSN in the form of a cross-play title for both PS3 and PSVita. So now it has finally come out, is it worth a look? In short, yes. In fact other than a few shortcomings this is one of the most worthwhile investments on the PSN.
The idea is simple. You take control of a non-descript blob that is able to roll, jump and stick to certain surfaces. You must travel from left to right (and occasionally other directions) collecting shapes and avoiding certain enemies and terrain. The premise is clearly well trodden ground and has been explored for many years over many titles and formats. However it is the way in which Sound Shapes goes about this side scrolling dynamic that makes it truly unique. The art direction is superb and the colour palette used is a perfect balance between vibrant and garish. Sound Shapes looks both simple and amazing at the same time and each set of stages is varied in style without feeling over complicated or overwhelming. Although it seems basic at first the games control system is actually very well balanced and will reward you for your practice. This become way more apparent in the end game content when jumps have to be frame perfect.
Now we come to the real crux of Sound Shapes’ gameplay - the music. The first thing worth mentioning here is that Queasy Games did not cop-out on the score. They have enlisted the talents of artists such as Beck and Deadmau5 to construct a truly original system. Each stage begins with just a bare-bones beat, then for every collectable you pick up another layer is added to the track. This concept is put to use so seamlessly that you will be pulled in without realising. It is in fact possible to complete each stage without collecting anything but hearing how the music will progress with each pick up will push you to go for every single item.
Enemies and platforms move in time with every beat, forcing you to get into the rhythm in order to avoid certain obstacles and dangers as you make your way through the campaign. As you complete levels and collect items, more are added to your inventory for the games creation mode. This allows you to create and compose your own levels and music using a simple to learn, difficult to master level creator and share your creations online. The tutorials for this mode are great and hours of fun can be had just experimenting with different sounds and shapes before seeing what others have come up with online.
Despite all these positives, Sound Shapes is not without its flaws. The online service seems to be having some teething problems as I was booted on more than one occasion and also I had issues with the upload/download service. My greatest issue however came with the game’s structure. The campaign, although fun, I was not particularly challenging and didn’t last much over 4 hours. In contrast, the post campaign content was so difficult at points that it made me want to eat my own controller. I understand end game content should be tough but it would have been nice to see a more gradual learning curve rather than such a steep jump in difficulty. These issues, however, are minor issues and should not put you off picking up Sound Shapes.
At £9.99 (£7.99 for Playstation Plus members) it is a steal and its even better for Vita owners as they get it on both formats. It is also worth noting that both versions have separate Trophy lists for those (like me) who enjoy getting the Platinum. As well as this, the save files are completely compatible, meaning you get two Platinum trophies but only have to play through the game once. For those who don’t care for Trophies, it is still a nice feature as it allows you to pick up from where you left off on the go if you happen to own a PSVita.
Sound Shapes is a refreshing change of style and pace for the PSN. Although not perfect it does a lot of things that have not been seen (or heard) before and should be commended for doing so. Add to this a small price tag and cross-play features and you have a great package that no PS3 owner should ignore.