February 7, 2010

Chime, the first release from the OneBigGame charity game initiative, is a rhythm puzzler that, at first glance, seems like a blend of Tetris and Lumines. While that’s not far off, it has a personality of its own, and the hypnotic soundtrack makes for one of the more immersive games in recent memory. Developer Zoe Mode has made it clear that they want the game judged on its merits, and not given a pass for being a “charity game.” I’m happy to oblige, so we’ll save that talk for last.  

The game consists of placing 5-block shapes in differently-shaped areas, trying to make “quads,” squares or rectangles that are at least 3×3. Once they’re created, you have a short time to make them larger by placing blocks next to them, and larger shapes get you more points.  Another important factor is “coverage.” Once a shape is formed and complete, it will disappear, leaving an area of the grid that is shaded in but can be played on. The objective is to cover the entire play area with the shaded color, allowing for more bonus points and a second board to start working on.

This would be interesting enough, but the kicker in the game is the musical integration. The tracks for each level are built up as each block on the board is covered up, so as you play, the composition evolves and gets more complex, in different ways as you try different strategies. Philip Glass, Moby and others donated tracks to the game, and all 5 of the levels are entrancing in a different way. 

For a $5 game, Chime has the requisite amount of replay value. Online leaderboards keep the competition going, and the achievements encourage different styles of play that keep you busy for a little while.  Ultimately, though, this game is going to be played mostly after you’ve done all that, and it’s a little musical toy of sorts at that point.  

Okay, so it’s a cool, visually stunning little $5 game, and it’s at least one twelfth as good as a big retail title, so you should buy it.  Now that we’ve established that, we can mention the charity thing.

The OneBigGame initiative donates all the developer’s cut to Starlight Children’s Foundation and Save the Children. The dev’s share starts at 60% and goes up from there, so it’s not a small amount of the purchase. (We do wish that Microsoft would participate in the initiative and donate their share, but we doubt that will happen.) 

Help children stay alive. Help yourself stay entertained. And do it all for the cost of a latte. Seriously, I don’t know what else to say.

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.