3 cert, Sony/Quesy Games, PS3 (also PS Vita) ****
The PlayStation Vita might not be as ubiquitous as it deserves to be, but it’s been a great year for Sony creatively: Their first-party games Journey and (especially) Gravity Rush rank among the best of 2012. Now, with Sound Shapes they’ve delivered a gem that compliments the Vita perfectly. It also benefits from being played on the PS3, especially if you’ve got a decent sound system.
Sound Shapes could be described as a side-scrolling music maker. At first glance it feels pretty low-fi, with its basic shapes, limited colour base, 2D platform gameplay and (initially) retro sounds. The spherical avatar looks like a cross between Pac-Man and Super Meat Boy.
Playing it conventionally, this is a simple but captivating and hugely playable platform game. You roll, you bounce and you jump along, above and around different surfaces. Music has a huge part: Every interactive object creates a sound; once you touch the notes onscreen, they continue to chime in rhythm with the existing background music. It’s very satisfying.
On some occasions the music beats betray the patterns of your enemies’ movements, so you are advised to “listen to the rhythm to overcome obstacles”.
Levels are separated into “Albums”, each with different aural and visual tones, from the Kraftwerk-esque industries of “Corporeal” to the glistening Röyksopp-ian chill of “Hyglacia”.
Like some of Sony’s best games (most conspicuously, Little Big Planet 1 2), much of Sound Shapes’ appeal lies in its level creation. So many surfaces, power-ups, enemies and objects make distinctive notes that when you’re creating a level, you’re composing a piece of music as well. There’s a rich tapestry of sounds, from the expected synth chimes to pops of choral vocals and twangs of banjos.
Even if Sound Shapes had neither the music gimmick nor the level creation, it would still be a beautifully constructed platform game. But games with user-generated content are the gifts that keep giving – Sound Shapes’ budding, resourceful community has already created a steady stream of new and imaginative levels.