There seems to be a theme going recently. First I review a simplistic platformer with amazing music called 6180 The Moon, then I review another simplistic platformer with fantastic music called 140. Whilst Firewatch broke that combo (ccccccc-combo breaker!), here I am yet again writing about a simplistic platformer with amazing music. Where Sound shapes differs is in the fact the music isn’t just awesome, it’s a part of the game’s core mechanics.
It all starts off simple enough, and like any normal platformer, the controls are straightforward: move from left to right, making sure to avoid any red items on the screen. You play as a blob of sound which is able to stick to some surfaces that match it’s own colour, or turn black to move faster (without the benefit of sticking to surfaces). As you make your way through levels you’ll notice that everything around contributes to the music, making for some really unique sounds. Collect more “tunes” throughout a level and you’ll get the music constantly change and evolve, making collecting everything a level has to offer a real pleasant experience.
Each “Album” of stages have their own style, both in the music they produce, but also in the general look and feel, as well as difficulty. Guest musicians make an appearance throughout, with one album being entirely produced by DeadMau5 for example (possibly my favourite of all the sets of stages throughout the game). I found that the constant changing of style between levels both helped to showcase how flexible the engine is, but also helped to constantly keep me interested, even as the game’s mechanics were soon mastered early on.
With each change of style comes a whole new process of learning the games core mechanics again. Is that enemy in the distance touchable, or should I be avoiding it? Is that tree climbable, or should I try and find a way around it? You’ll constantly ask these questions with each new area that you enter, something I haven’t found myself doing in a while when it comes to games.
The campaign as a whole can be completed within 3 hours or so, and whilst there’s no story to speak of (seems to be a reoccurring theme with these abstract simplistic platformers recently doesn’t it?) each stage carries enough variety and challenge to keep you well entertained until the end of the game, when you get that glorious gold trophy.
I think it easily goes without saying that for a game based soul around its music, the music present was absolutely stunning. As I previously mentioned, the DeadMau5 stages were my favourite, but that doesn’t mean the others didn’t affect me in the same way. Everybody’s bound to find a style they like throughout the campaign, and if not, you’re bound to find something in the games huge backlog of DLC available.
Once the campaign was finished, I still continued to play the game for another 2-3 hours, which is rare for me due to how little time I have available these days. The reason I kept coming back? The death mode.
This surprisingly infuriating mode which is only unlocked once the campaign is finished pits you on some of the hardest sections of each stage, and gives you the objective of collectible a certain amount of randomly generated “tunes” within a given time limit. These tiny sections are both ridiculous, and oh so great at bringing out how intricately designed Sound Shapes really is. During the campaign, there’s always a margin of error to your jumps; you don’t have to time things perfectly, and even if you cock up, you’ll probably still make a jump. In Death Mode this is all thrown out the window. You have to be pixel perfect precise; any mistake and you’re either dead, or never going to complete the objective.
This difficulty spike got me so engrossed into the game that I ended up not realising an hour had passed whilst I replayed one level continuously. It’s that damn addictive. It isn’t even the fact that you get a silver trophy for your troubles, it’s genuinely the challenge of completing this ludicrously hard level.
So, should you invest a few hours into the game known as Sound Shapes? Most certainly. I mean, if you’ve been a Playstation Plus subscriber for a while now, you’ll most likely already own the game, so what do you have to lose? Chances are, you’ll find something you like in Sound Shapes; I know I did, and will definitely be coming back time and time again when I have a spare hour.