Sound Shapes. I knew from the moment I first laid my hands on it back at E3 2011 that it was something special, and I’ve been clamoring about it ever since. The moment you’re done reading this review, buy it, download it, play it, and you will be, too.
Initially, Sound Shapes appears to be a platformer. But just moments after that impression is made, there’s a realization that Sound Shapes is about music creation. Not just the level editor, but even just normal level progression goes to a tempo. Collecting coins along the way builds the beat. Every other aspect—obstacles and enemies—complete the track. It’s both quite literally and figuratively, music to my ears.
Bringing in talent in variety in the form of Beck, Deadmau5, Jim Guthrie, and more makes for an ear-gasm. Each artist’s musical style is depicted visually by each level, or track—which are represented by single tracks on a record. A record you can even scratch, should you choose.
Once I started into my first level, and my first beat started to come together, the smile on my face was ear-to-ear. Maybe it was a reaction to the music, and my grin wanted to see why my ears were in heaven, or maybe the game is just that cool. I think it’s both.
You play as a little blob ball thingy as you hop from platform to platform, bouncing on objects and sticking to walls. There’s checkpoints, foes, things you must avoid, and coins to collect. Whatever you do, don’t touch anything red. Red means danger. But that’s really it. The simplicity offers easy accessibility, but it doesn’t at all mean Sound Shapes is light on challenge. Later stages, while never crossing that line of frustration, have a degree of difficulty. Even losing is charming—how can you not chuckle a little when you die because you were standing on a platform of text that happened to turn into the word “hurt” during the song’s matching lyric? When I die, I want to die via song.
When you complete a level, it’s back to the turntable to choose another. There are five albums, EP-sized with a handful of tracks each. You can play through them all within a couple of hours, and you just might—Sound Shapes is one of those games you don’t want to put down.
As clever and memorable each of the campaigns main tracks are, the game’s real longevity—much like LittleBigPlanet—lies in the community. Because the gameplay isn’t overly complicated, using the level editor isn’t either. In a few mere taps and presses, and maybe some natural God-given rhythm (if you have any), you can design levels on part with what Queasy has done for the campaign. And to my delight, the online community is already populated with plenty to see and do… and hear.
Sounds Shapes is identical on both the PS3 and Vita. But the vibrant colors look so darn pretty on the Vita’s OLED screen. On the other hand, if you want to fully enjoy that music, nothing beats the PS3 hooked up to a powerful receiver and 7.1 channels of Sound Shapes. Whichever way you decide to go, cloud save syncs your progress.
Sound Shapes is part game, part music creator, even before touching the level editor. It’s beautiful, simple, unique, and if you ever had even the slightest interest in creating your own music, you’re going to love Sound Shapes. If the thought of creating music is overwhelming to you, still, you’re going to love Sound Shapes. Now go buy it.