Sound Shapes has been PlayStation‘s most mysteriously vaporous title – besides a certain Team Ico jam – for a while now. Over a year ago the title was originally announced as PS Vita exclusive, and a possible launch title for the system. Obviously, Sound Shapes didn’t make it into Vita‘s launch and frankly, no one really knew what was going on with the unique platformer for weeks.
Now, a full six months after PS Vita’s western launch Sound Shapes has arrived as a PS3/PS Vita exclusive sporting a new feature; crossplay. This allows players that to play at home on their PS3, save and take the game on the go with their PS Vita. That is especially cool because buying th game on one system gets you the game on the other as well. The real question is, was Sound Shapes worth the wait?
The first thing you’ll notice aboutSound Shapes is its beautiful minimalist approach. This game doesn’t confuse you with lots of menus or options. Rather, it just gets you straight into the game which, by the way, is beautiful. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have plenty of options to monkey with, just that the game doesn’t really ask you to. You’ll probably want to get straight into the game anyways, to tackle its 20 level campaign in order to unlock pieces that can be used in creating your own stages later on. Completing said campaign also unlocks two more modes that should get trophy hunters all tingly.
Sound Shapes is simply an audio/visual joy to experience. The game contains 5 “albums” which are basically worlds. Each album has a completely unique visual design and is based on the music of a different musician. Lending their talent to the game’s audio are the likes of Beck, I Am Robot, Proud and deadmau5. Believe it or not, this is one of my favorite aspects of the game. It gives each world such a unique feel that it truly can’t be overlooked as an important feature.
From a gameplay aspect Sound Shapes is pretty simple. It is, at its core, a side-scrolling platformer and that is definitely something we’ve all seen a million times. However, it does do some very important things that set the game apart. Each level is full of collectible orbs that, when collected, add bits to the background music. Basically, as you move through the level the song the level is literally based on is slowly being constructed. This is one of the more interesting ideas I have seen in a big game release in a long time. As you traverse you aren’t just adding new chords and notes, you’re also removing old ones so that the songs have a full progression.
There is no story to speak of in the game. We have no idea why the little blob is trying to get across each level, and frankly I don’t care. The game represents this interesting converse concept of simplicity and complexity existing side-by-side. Sound Shapes isn’t even overly difficult, and it could be beaten in 3-4 hours. The thing is, struggling through a level or grinding away for hours just isn’t the point of the game. It is the epitome of an art game. This title is meant to be leisurely enjoyed and not “beaten.”
Once you do “beat” the game the fun really can begin, though. That’s because that opens up the to aforementioned modes called Death Mode and Beat School. The former tasks players with collecting a set number of items within a set time and can actually be reasonably tough. The latter, being my favorite, is more interesting. Beat School asks the more musically inclined of us to string together beats using only the creation tools built into the game and your imagination. Being a pretend musician myself, Beat School, while being easy, was truly fun. I would love to know how the less musical among us fair in this mode. These two modes are where all but one of the games trophies are won, thus making trophy hunting separate from completing the game itself. The one trophy won via story mode is its lone gold, with the other 32 silvers coming in the unlocked modes. Perhaps one of the more interesting things about the game is that it comes with two separate trophy lists so that a player that platinums the game on Vita and transfers his save to PS3 will essentially earn two platinums and all the silvers and that lone gold too, twice.
Sound Shapes is great. The game is equally great on either system, although I prefer to do my gaming on my handheld of choice, PS Vita. This game is the reason I play Sony consoles. It’s artsy, unique and innovative. If you own Vita and need a game, here it is.