|System: X360 (XBLA)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Zoë Mode||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Microsoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 3, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Robert VerBruggen
Looking at the screenshots for Chime, it's hard not to roll your eyes. It's yet another block-based game on a grid, and it even incorporates some trendy rhythm aspects. At first glance, it seems to be the product of some secret market-research lab that told the developers what's "in."
Fortunately, though, that's not a fair characterization of the actual gameplay. The blocks look Tetris-esque, but they're made of five pieces instead of four (which makes this game, what, Pentris?), and they don't fall on their own. You can move them around and place them wherever you please. Also, the goal isn't to stop the blocks from filling up the screen; rather, you're actually trying to fill the screen with solid rectangles (or "Quads") that are at least 3x3 in size. That's not a radical departure for a block-based puzzle game, but at least it's different enough to stand out.
Whenever you create a 3x3 Quad, it turns into a meter that fills slowly. Until the meter is full, you can add more blocks to the rectangle to make it bigger (it might grow from 3x3 to 3x4 to 3x5 to 4x5, for example). Whenever you add a row or column, the meter resets, but when it's full, the rectangle solidifies. When the beat bar (a vertical line that moves from left to right) touches the solidified Quad, it disappears. This part of the grid is now considered "covered," and is colored differently to reflect this, but you can still use it to create more 3x3 blocks, a feature that helps you cover adjacent areas.
That sounds somewhat complicated, but it's really not. There's a simple and well-done tutorial for anyone who has trouble, and after a few games, Chime's basic concepts become second nature. These basic mechanics aren't quite as addictive as those of, say, Tetris, because you're not constantly up against a falling block, but they are engrossing, and you'll find yourself putting real thought into where each piece should go.
If you achieve 50 percent coverage before the time runs out, you unlock the next stage, and if you achieve 100 percent coverage, you proceed to an extension of the current stage (in which you can increase your coverage beyond 100 percent). Playing well extends your time, and you can choose to start with three, six, or nine minutes, or even no time limit at all, which serves as a difficulty setting. If you turn off the time limit, however, you also turn off the scoring, so there isn't much point to this option.
The rhythm aspects aren't particularly important; they're more a trendy gimmick than anything. Whenever the beat bar touches a block you've placed, it triggers additional layers of music, which ties the sound effects to the soundtrack. Rez creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi is also a fan of this effect, called "synesthesia." When the beat line touches a Quad, a special effect plays. To the developers' credit, they got some high-profile artists, including Moby, to contribute tracks, but to their discredit, they included only five songs (and thus only five levels) total. Perhaps additional tracks will become available via DLC. Graphically, the game is far from a powerhouse, but everything looks sharp and colorful.