Throughout the entire playthrough of Sound Shapes, it’s incredibly easy to compare Sony’s latest platformer experiment to the Nintendo DS title Electroplankton. A niche musical toolbox, Electroplankton was a bizarre little title, one that brought creativity to the table but never seemed like a game. It had a fine amount of design choices tuned towards creating music from something full of purity and nature, but it was a toy more than a full-fledged game, one where goals and objectives never really came to fruition. Sound Shapes is what Electroplankton could have been; Sony’s latest exclusive sheds the amorphous skin of novelty and truly makes a game out of music. Though Sony’s user-generated fervor will likely gently push aside thirsty gamers looking for a hardened gameplay-based challenge, Sound Shapes is something bright and original. By seamlessly mixing a natural platformer construction with a universally musical vibe, Sound Shapes is a joyous ride that must be seen and heard to be believed.
You play as a single eyeball creature whose simple abilities include sticking to similarly colored walls and ceilings, rolling around at a higher speed, and being deathly vulnerable to anything glowing red. It’s a simple aesthetic, one that echoes past Sony games like Patapon or Loco Roco, but significantly tones down the smiles and kooky atmosphere with something pure and minimalistic. It’s a fine design that works remarkably well when showing the indie side of the Playstation Network. The eyeball can bounce off other creatures, slide along the sides of vines, and avoid being devoured by angry red ghost-like monsters. The controls are pretty tough to get a handle on, but work smoothly enough to keep you in direction and on course with your goal: reaching the end of each stage.
Sound Shapes’ most crucial and fundamental philosophy is that every level is musical. No, this isn’t just your typical theme world with giant notes or keyboard floors. Sound Shapes literally makes music out of its construction. As your little eyeball rolls through stages, different environmental objects will not only move, but (for lack of a better term) tune in to the action. There is a metronomic beat to every stage, and as you progress, the beat becomes complemented with snares, whistles, and other sounds. At first, it can seem a bit cacophonic, but soon it comes together into something harmonious and serene. Platforms will move into view with a steady sound, giant spheres in the sky will hum or whistle to the platforms’ beat. Players can also collect notes for completion bonuses and even they have a musical importance. When collected, notes sound off with pitched tones, adding even more to the fantastic collection of minimalist symphonies.
Very much like Little Big Planet and Modnation Racers, Sound Shapes is not a lengthy or deep title for players looking for pure, unbound gaming guts. However, like those titles, Sound Shapes holds customizable level pieces, a stage editor, and the ability to share your designs on the Playstation Network. Compared to past Sony “Play Create Share” ventures, Sound Shapes has what is hands-down the most intuitive user-generation toolbox ever seen in a Sony title. Constructing a musically vibrant level is functional, but encourages creativity. There is a superb balance between making music and making a challenging stage that’s worth sharing with friends. Keeping that metronomic pace helps nail the vibe of Sound Shapes, but you’re still building a level, and it works fantastically. Unlockable objects will keep gamers rolling through the stages toward completion, but being able to use those objects in something creative is reward unto itself. Sound Shapes is the most honed and fluid example of user-generated content that Sony has ever delivered, all thanks to a simple and intuitive interface that never feels intimidating or convoluted. You will want to build stages in Sound Shapes.
If you do plan to play through the game instead of creating your own levels, expect a lighter experience. The five albums offer music from the likes of undead-rodent-based Deadmau5 and even maestro of alternative quirk, Beck. However, despite the levels’ intense length and challenge, the number of them is low. Especially in the later levels, you’ll see some incredibly unique design that demands more experimentation. Hopefully the community will create some fantastic symphonies and some post-launch DLC (whether levels or even just new objects to tinker with) would offer plenty of great tunes to roll to, but as a single package, Sound Shapes’ concept is one that could’ve been expanded upon even more. The unlockable Death Mode is worthy of mention, because its insane difficulty is a hearty challenge for gamers underwhelmed by the bleak campaign. Still, the game portion of Sound Shapes could’ve been a bit richer, especially when the foundational concept is so very captivating.
Sound Shapes is a fine PSN title that fulfills the promise of so many other music-based games before it: it literally is musical. Down to its absolute core, Sound Shapes simply could not function without music. With its unique design and cool aesthetic, there is always something new to see in Sound Shapes. Playing through the campaign is a fleeting experience, but it’s one that introduces players to a brand new way to experience sound in games. With such a clever and diverse soundtrack, the levels come to life in entirely new ways. But with the level editor and the ability to share your stages with the PSN community, Sound Shapes transcends its small flaws with accessibility and style. This is a game that urges players to break out the toolbox and design something fun and rewarding to make. If Sound Shapes provided just a bit more on the content count side of things, it would easily be Game of the Year material. Still, even with that nagging flaw, Sound Shapes remains an experience that truly redefines how sound can be approached in video games. Queasy Games’ conceptual escapade is a subtle and serene title that commands its concept with gusto and it shouldn’t be missed.
Fantastic unity of music and gameplay | Level editor is intuitive, but deep | Purely original concept
Controls take some time to get used to | Could've used a bit more content
It began with a hand-me-down Sega Genesis from his cousin and since then, he's been fascinated with video games. He enjoys the blissful platforming of the 16-bit era and the rich adventures of the 64-bit era. Favorite games include Metroid Prime, Banjo-Tooie, and practically every 16-bit Sonic the Hedgehog title.
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Throughout the entire playthrough of Sound Shapes, it’s incredibly easy to compare Sony’s latest platformer experiment to the Nintendo DS title Electroplankton. A niche musical toolbox, Electroplankton was a bizarre little title, one that brought creativity to the table but never seemed like a game. It had a fine amount of design choices tuned