Sound Shapes Preview (Vita)

June 6, 2012Written by Nick Michetti

From the moment that gamers learned about Sound Shapes, they knew it was going to be a special and unique kind of title. An unconventional 2D platformer with artistic and musical style, gamers will have a difficult time finding any other game that looks like it. Games like Sound Shapes can become staples of console libraries — or, to the very least, well received sleeper hits — if given the right amount of development time and attention. Judging by the time spent with the demo of the PlayStation Vita version here on the show floor at E3 2012, Sound Shapes looks poised to become one of those games that Vita owners will tell their fellow gamers to buy.

In Sound Shapes, players control a ball (like Samus Aran’s rolled-up ball form from the Metroid series, but not), which players navigate through levels in order to reach the end point. The ball is capable of sticking to white terrain in levels, but is incapable of sticking to dark terrain, which means that players will have to use their platforming skills to navigate the various obstacles posed by these circumstances. For instance, players may encounter a territory that has some light areas on top and dark areas on the bottom, with environmental hazards present. Players will have to make the ball “un-sticky” to release it from the white terrain and make it “re-sticky” whenever they need to stick to surfaces again.

Sound Shapes‘ gameplay is very simple, though, and the explanation above actually makes playing the game sound more complicated than it actually use. Sound Shapes is intuitive and accessible, using colors and very minimal level design elements to communicate information to the player. White = sticky, dark = unsticky, red = (some) enemies/hazardous, etc. — Sound Shapes can teach the player just about everything they need to know to play the game in the process of a few short minutes, which is quite a feat in the age of next-gen games with thirty minute initial learning curves. Queasy Games accomplishes all that they need to with the game seemingly without sacrificing any quality platformer gameplay, either, which is an impressive feat.

Along the way, players collect notes, which help improve the background music in the level. No penalty exists for missing notes — Sound Shapes has been designed to be accessible. The game has no health or lives — rather, Sound Shapes utilizes a checkpoint-only system. If players die, they’ll respawn at the last checkpoint they reached, possibly missing only some previously collected notes. Speaking of notes, collecting them isn’t mandatory. They exist and players can grab them if they want to, but regardless of how many are collected, players will unlock the next level simply by reaching the end. Fun and accessibility are priorities for the experience and it shows in gameplay.

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