Over the last several weeks, I’ve been chiseling away at Sound Shapes. Its campaign is not extremely long, consisting of 20 levels spread across a handful of themed worlds, dubbed “albums” here, that can be completed rather quickly if one just kept at it. That said, I was in no rush, and I didn’t actually want the levels to end, as I found myself shuffling over to the game in times of stress and panic, when I need a moment to calm my nerves or just forget about the drama of the world. Not every level helps in this fashion, but the majority of this rhythm-driven platformer forces the player to relax, to lose themselves in drum-beats and cartoonish side-scrolling goodness.
For those that know, I did the albums in order, level by level, every few days or so, finishing up with the one featuring music from Beck. Yup, that loser, baby. His first track level is amazing, and I found myself knocked back by how good it was, fusing platforming with both music and vocals, creating yet a still dangerous environment to roll and jump around in. The same can be said of the previous albums too, though they all feel different, and not just because of the visual style or drum beats, but some levels are more about timing-specific jumping while others have you avoiding rockets or enemies. A handful of earlier levels are happy to let you stroll through with no obstacles, and they are just as enjoyable. Before I discovered Beck’s album levels, I was madly in love with the album designed by Capybara Games, featuring music from Jim Guthrie. Y’know, the folks behind the fantastically moody and unnerving Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP.
Sound Shapes, from what I can tell, is twofold: basically, the straightforward campaign, and a level creator. Once you complete the game’s campaign, two other modes unlock, which play heavily into unlocking the majority of Trophies. That said, the “death mode” levels are extremely challenging, like late-game Super Meat Boy-esque, seeing as it took me upwards of thirty tries to beat the first take on this theme. I don’t know how many others I’ll go after, but I will try out “beat school” at some point, though I kind of feel like I got my fill of Sound Shapes. It sated, if you will.
Sound Shapes‘ gameplay is fairly straightforward. After all, this is a side-scrolling platformer, a genre that will never not be strong, where you can move your little eyeball critter and stick it to surfaces to climb or descend through the level. Each stage is packed with collectible circles that add musical components to the background soundtrack, such as an additional guitar lick or hi-hat tap. As you collect more, the level’s soundtrack evolves. Your goal is to get to the end and jump through the magical boombox. It’s pretty linear, but that doesn’t mean it is less magical as you watch a level’s geography twist and turn with the tunes, funneling you one way through its audio-video journey.
Unlike Super Mario Maker, which I have and have been tooling around with over the last week and will eventually do a post on, I have no interest in making levels for Sound Shapes. Zip, nada, none. Or playing others’ levels, if that is something you can do. I’m not sure, as I didn’t even dip into the level creator menu to find out. I’m not really sure why, but some games simply don’t entice me in the same way that Super Mario Maker has, or, if they do, they are a bit too complicated to figure out, like LittleBigPlanet 2 or any of the LEGO games. I’m sure there’s a ton of cool stuff being made–or was made–for Sound Shapes, as one can already tell from its mishmash of a campaign in terms of style and substance, but those twenty-some levels were all I needed. Truly, if I want more, I’ll just replay them.
Look, if you like music and games, you should play Sound Shapes. If you love music and games, boy oh boy, you should play Sound Shapes. If you’re a big fan of simplistic, forgiving platformer, at least until you clear the campaign, you should play Sound Shapes. That’s as best as I can sell it. I’m off now to listen to those three Beck tracks on loop, just because.