Sound Shapes – E3 Preview

Tying gameplay to guitar riffs made me an instant fan of Everyday Shooter and its creator, Jonathan Mak. But that was back in October of 2007 when Everyday Shooter released on the PlayStation Network. Since then, I’ve longed for more of the visual style and music-infused gameplay that Queasy Games brought to the game. So I couldn’t have possibly been happier when I came across Sound Shapes for the PS Vita during my press-only tour of Sony’s E3 booth.

After only seconds of playing it, I was sold. The visuals were exactly what I had hoped for: simplistic, colorful and vibrant. The gameplay, however, wasn’t at all what I was expecting. Unlike Everyday Shooter, which was a twin-stick shooter, Sound Shapes is a platformer at heart, and definitely unique through and through.

You take control of a ball–there’s really no other way to describe it–and traverse through levels filled with platforming, obstacles and these little circles (fitting for a game focused on shapes) floating around. No platformer is complete without some sort of object to collect, but these circles serve a much greater purpose. As you collect them, a music note sounds, which begins to repeat. As you collect more and more, you add to the level’s background music. And it’s not some random sounds, these turn into full-fledged beats, and make for excellent in-game music. Before long, I found myself bobbing my head and aiming to collect every last piece of the beat to hear the full track, paying little-to-no attention to the actual goal of completing a level. Even the obstacles, comprised of more shapes, add to the track.

Like Everyday Shooter, the game can get difficult quick, but my admiration of the music being created as I played, made any challenge a joy to face. Despite everything consisting of shapes, the game can produce some serious complexity in its level design. It’s not just jumping from platform to platform: You can stick to walls, ceilings and moving objects to ensure you grab every last beat-producing circle.

I was instantly in love with Sound Shapes. Then, like meeting a beautiful woman, falling deep in love, and after all that finding out she’s a wealthy princess, Sound Shapes has so much more than basic level progression. Continuing the trend of Play.Create.Share. Sony has set forth with past titles, Sound Shapes features a robust level designer. More amazing yet, this also means it’s a music creator. As you create your level, you can add the same “circles” you were collecting in-game, and tie a number of instruments to each one. Where you place the circle in the level directly affects the lead time for when the corresponding instrument sounds off, giving you complete control over the melody you’re creating. At this point, I hadn’t even touched the level-building components, only the music. Using the front and rear touchscreens on the Vita, you can select, deselect, stretch, shape and mold a number of construction materials (all consisting of vibrant colors and shapes, a theme throughout the game). Add some enemies and within minutes–and we mean literally minutes–you’ll have a complete level with a personalized music track.

Let me make this clear: I’m not the type to get my hands dirty in game’s create modes. I’ve made one or two LittleBigPlanet stages, and that’s about it for my Play.Create.Share. side. But with Sound Shapes, it was so simple to create using my hands (through the touchscreen and rear panel) that it didn’t feel like I needed to practice for hours to make something amazing. The fact that I was creating music with ease while creating my level, made it all the more enjoyable.

Sound Shapes is set to be a launch title for the PlayStation Vita, and could very well be the system’s killer app. Debuting with something so unique that takes full advantage of the Vita’s crisp, multi-touch OLED screen and rear multi-touch panel, is sure to sell some systems. It was easily my personal favorite title at E3, and certainly one of the most innovative at the entire show. If you are planning on picking up a PlayStation Vita on day one, make damn sure you set aside some extra money to grab Sound Shapes with it.