I somehow managed to miss Sound Shapes on PS3 and Vita, so I’m approaching the PlayStation 4 version with fresh eyes. Or should that be fresh ears? Because this game is just as much about its audio as it is its looks.
If you haven’t seen it before, Sound Shapes is a seriously funky side-scrolling platform game that looks very modern, but plays totally oldschool. Its action is spread across five “albums,” each of which features a collection of four levels created by a different designer. They're stylistically diverse, yet come together to form an outsider-artsy, bright and bold cohesive whole.
Sound Shapes’ level layouts are not particularly sophisticated, which might sound like a bad thing, but it’s not, because it makes the platforming action stripped-down and straight-up, where everything is laid out in front of you with no tricks or gimmicks. Just jump, hang off walls, avoid getting nailed, and make it to the exit. Simple, classic platforming jazz.
Queasy Games' creation is probably not sounding like much so far, but that’s because I haven’t talked about Sound Shapes’ shtick - its music. A simple, unimpressive rhythm or riff accompanies your initial forays, but as you start making headway and pick up items, the deconstructed tune begins to reconstruct itself, adding and dropping notes, sounds and beats to build into its full form as the level reaches a crescendo. This musical momentum is further enhanced by the game’s kinetic and rhythmic movements, which flow together to deliver a simply terrific audio-visual experience.
That experience doesn’t last particularly long, however. If you’re fairly skilled, it’ll take you perhaps an evening’s worth of play to reach the game’s conclusion, but when you do, there are a couple of other modes that open up – one that requires you to repeat the journey you just completed, only under harsher conditions, and the other, Death Mode, which gives you specific challenges to complete. And it’s as difficult as normal mode is easy.
Sound Shapes’ additional bonus is that it has a rather tricky-to-use level designer, should a bit of do-it-yourself gaming take your fancy. Or if that’s not your cup of tea, you can download some of the great levels others have designed. Speaking of downloads, there are some DLC packs already available for the game, featuring new albums, tunes and art should you want to expand your experience. There's even a dubstep one, should you want to feel your bowels wobble along with the bassline while you play.
For me, Sound Shapes is a winner. You may or may not relate to this, but I don’t quite look at it like I do most off-the-shelf games. It’s something I just want to have on my PlayStation – something that I can go back to and play when I’m in the mood. Flower’s a bit like that too. It’s something you show people because it's cool. It's something that you don’t play for months, but then you suddenly remember you have it, and you have just as much fun playing it as you did the last time, because it's strangely timeless. I have a bunch of games like that on PS3 – most of them budget indie titles – and this is another one of those. And it’s a good one at that – especially once you start adding DLC to give it even more variety.
If your preferences are a little more traditional, then perhaps Sound Shapes might be too out there for you - and the music from the likes of Beck and Deadmau5 might also not be to your taste. But if it is, and you want something that’s bright, bold and fun, this is well worth a look. Especially when you consider that if you buy the PlayStation 4 version, you can download it for Vita and PS3 for free.