Preview: Sound Shapes is a different music game

June 25, 2011

The launch lineup of a system can usually be divided into three categories. The first is the hastily-ported game from another system. With those, the original game is probably good, but there are few reasons the port is better. The second is the gimmicky game that shows off the features of the new hardware. Those don’t typically age well, as the developers try too many things and don’t have much time torefine ideas or hindsight needed to know what to avoid. Sound Shapes is part of the third group, the legitimately interesting and innovative titles that find a home at a system’s launch not because that’s where they need to be, but because it’s a time they can get publisher support without getting drowned out by larger projects.

In Sound Shapes, a Vita title developed by Jonathan Mak and Shaw-Han Liem, players create levels that make music, then play them to bring the music to life one note at a time. If you really wanted to, you could have a lot of fun without ever entering the creator. It plays much like recent PSP mini The 2D Adventures of Rotating Octopus Character, which we mention just so we can type out that name again. Your character jumps and sticks to surfaces, and the complexity comes in the form of the environments you must traverse. What makes Sound Shapes so much more than that already-fun title is the building musical themes as you move around to collect blocks here and there and avoid various obstacles. This isn’t entirely new, either; we’ve seen a similar mechanic in downloadable puzzler Chime. Even that wouldn’t be entirely amazing if it weren’t for the editor.

So how does that work? You have a myriad number of instruments to choose from, and you place them in the form of collectible blocks on the screen by tapping. It’s also how you place blocks, surfaces and obstacles. You can stretch and rotate these items using the back touch pad, which is so far the most intuitive use of that feature we’ve seen. It looks easy to use, and we glimpsed some of the advanced tools, but we’ll have to get more into those in the full version. Of course, if they turn out too daunting, we’ll be happy enough to explore the detailed levels shared by those more diligent than we are.

Sound Shapes is slated to release at the Vita’s launch.