Sound Shapes Review for PS Vita

Sound Shapes Review for PS Vita

A Rhythm Game For Musicians

Sound Shapes is one of those rare gems that had me hooked from the second I turned it on. Its premise is fairly straightforward, though a simple explanation hardly does it justice. You see, the game takes a completely fresh approach to the rhythm genre.

Sound Shapes is essentially a platformer where you control a little eyeball-like object that rolls around the screen. You can make this thing jump, and it will stick to certain walls and ceilings. Sounds simple enough, right?

But the thing that makes it stand out is the fact that every element of the game completely revolves around music. The obstacles you’re going to have to dodge and avoid? Those are all timed to the rhythm of whatever song is playing in the background. Each coin you collect in a stage adds a new sound to the mix, so if you want to hear a song in its entirety, you have to collect all the coins. Listening to the various pieces of a song coming together as you uncover these coins is incredibly cool.

Sound Shapes Screenshot

Now, any music-based game will live or die based on its soundtrack, and Sound Shapes brings together an insanely talented ensemble cast. In fact, you’ve probably purchased (or illegally downloaded) albums by some of these people at some point in your life. Deadmau5 and Beck lead the pack, but the tracks by Jim Guthrie and I Am Robot and Proud manage to hold their own as well. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m going to end up buying something by I Am Robot and Proud, based on how exceptional their contributions to Sound Shapes are.

The levels in the game are actually better referred to as songs. The game is divided into six albums (one of which is a brief tutorial album) and each album contains between three and five songs (though the tutorial album only has two). Sure, it’s not a lengthy campaign by any means, but we’re promised robust DLC support in the future. And really, the album format of Sound Shapes is incredibly well-suited to downloadable content.

Sound Shapes Screenshot

But the campaign is really just the tip of the iceberg here. You see, similar to LittleBigPlanet, completing stages earns you items to use in a level editor. Here, that means you actually get to create your own music in what’s essentially a cross between a music sequencer and a level editor. And this is the true meat of Sound Shapes. Creative types will drool over the sorts of things they can build here. You’re not just building platformer stages; you’re actually composing your own music, which is visually represented as a video game level. How cool is that?

Of course, there’s a huge social aspect to the game; you’ll be able to upload your own creations and play through creations uploaded by others. On the day the game came out, there was already a pretty heft supply of user-created levels. Mind you, not all of them are going to be as fine-tuned as the stock levels, but there are actually quite a few decent ones in the mix. In fact, some users enjoy being downright brutal in their level design, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing considering the platformer genre is no stranger to high difficulty levels.

Sound Shapes Screenshot

Even though the music composition element takes center stage in the post-campaign content, there are some other cool things to play around with that open up once you’ve completed the main game. First is Death Mode, which allows you to replay new versions of the campaign songs, only with insanely difficult timed objectives added. If you were disappointed by how easy the campaign was, Death Mode is probably more your thing.

Next up, though, is an addition to the editor called Beat School, which essentially teaches you the basics of music sequencing by asking you to listen to certain patterns and re-create them in the in-game sequencer. Of course, I have almost a decade of experience with sequencing, so I breezed through this entire mode in about 30 minutes (I really only had any real trouble with this mode’s final challenge). To those who don’t have this kind of experience under their belts, though, I can see this being somewhat difficult. But stick with it and I promise you you’ll be much better prepared to experiment with the game’s music creation elements.

Sound Shapes is available on both PS3 and PS Vita, and buying one version gets you the other free of charge. This is especially cool because you can send data back and forth via cloud saves, a feature that is incredibly easy to use. Did you finish the entire campaign on PS3, and now want to create some tunes on your Vita with the goodies you’ve unlocked without having to replay the entire game? The cloud feature makes that possible. And easy.

Sound Shapes Screenshot

The only real difference between the two versions is the controls, and from my personal experience, the Vita has a slight advantage in the creation/sequencing department. Using the touchscreen and rear touchpad (which is actually really well-implemented here; imagine that) makes song/level creation far less tedious.

However, points go to the PS3 version during the straight-up platforming segments, at least in my opinion. After playing a couple hours on my Vita, I noticed a cramp in my hands that I didn’t have after playing the game with the DualShock, even though I spent considerably more time with the PS3 version than the Vita version.

If you love music and you love video games—and especially if you love rhythm games—Sound Shapes is simply a must-buy title. For the low price of fifteen dollars, you could be creating that musical masterpiece you’ve always dreamed of but simply lacked the tools needed to compose it.

Beautiful yet simplistic aesthetic that’s always fun to look at. 4.5 Control
Very simple control scheme. The creative options with the Vita are incredibly well-implemented. 5.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
With Deadmau5 and Beck leading the pack, this is an audio treat to not be missed. 4.8 Play Value
Once you’re done with the campaign, the fun has just begun. Now it’s time to spend dozens of hours crafting your own songs and levels. 4.7 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Campaign Mode delivers an engaging and fun platforming experience that guides players through five unique “records” with a variety of challenges.
  • Editor Mode features a deep level of customization that allows players to create unique levels with original music compositions. This editor mode utilizes the PS Vita system’s front touchscreen and back touchpad to provide an easy-to-use interface for creating music and gameplay-infused experiences.
  • During campaign gameplay, players run, jump, and stick while manipulating platforms, lasers, and other objects that trigger beats and musical cues to develop the game’s soundtrack.
  • Once the levels have been completed in the campaign, all of the music and artwork are available for players to create their own custom tracks/levels that can be shared with the community. Created levels can be uploaded and shared to the PSN for others to experience and rank.
  • The game also supports cross-save between the PS Vita and PS3 systems, allowing players to play and resume on either platform.

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