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Sound Shapes for PSVita [Game On]

It’s often easy to think of a game fitting purely into a defined genre and sub-type. For example, too often violent video games strictly conjure up imagery of first-person shooters illustrating war-torn conflicts between alien races or too-close-to-home terror plots. Platformer¬†are often assumed to require some cartoonish protagonist and the type of harmless hoop-jumping that pushes you closer to say, saving the princess. Sound familiar?

While these gaming experiences may be commonplace and forge the stereotypes so many gamers and non-gamers alike have come to recognize, every now and then a truly unique entry into a genre comes along offering a sweet departure from the familiar. For platformers, Sound Shapes is that game.

A cross-platform platformer playable on both the PS Vita and the Playstation 3, Sound Shapes, as the name implies, revolves heavily around shapes and sound. Immediately apparent is the starkly contrasted, minimalistic approach not only to game play, but in the design of the entire experience. You’re instructed to jump, roll, stick, and reach the end of each level and avoid red things along the way. Checkpoints are immediately recognizable and beyond that you’re off and running-er, rolling.

Every action harmoniously synchronizes its sound effects with the music. As you roll on collecting notes and progressing from one level to the next, it’s incredibly satisfying to hear the audio cues you’re collecting slowly but surely build into a pleasing composition that thematically matches the layout of the level in which it exists. The art direction here is top-notch, providing not only mountains of charming eye candy, but visual consistency that makes progress satisfying and rewarding.

The other half of that direction is, of course, the sound. There are some well-known artists featured here with Deadmau5 and Beck both lending some original productions to the design. Tracks are fairly varied, with early levels exhibiting a minimalistic, ambient vibe while later levels (ramping up in their chaos) provide some more pulse-pounding mixes. Granted, a lot of the music is electronically focused, but it’s enjoyable throughout, constantly throwing unique interpretations of each level’s feel at your ears.

While ‘avoid the red things’ might sound simple enough, the challenge within Sound Shapes is deceptively solid. Don’t let the adorable presentation fool you- as you progress so goes the variety of obstacles you’ll encounter and narrow escapes from failure become more and more frequent. Granted, checkpoints are liberally placed throughout and there’s no real penalty for going kablooey all over the place, but it’s nice to see that just because it appears to be a walk in the park, that it can still be a royal pain in the ass- but in that good way.

While failure might not feel particularly impactful, success is deeply rewarding on a few levels. First off you can immediately publish your best time for completing a level, but then you also unlock additional levels and the best part is your unlocking of elements within the level you just completed to make your OWN sound and shape levels. The level editor is intuitive in explaining how to create your own levels and also makes fantastic use of the PS Vita’s rear touch-pad. Point in case, I let my friend try it who has almost zero gaming experience and she was off and creating her own levels immediately, intuitively resizing her own level obstacles and testing out her creation.

All in all, at $14.99,¬†Sound Shapes is an absolute steal and its invigorating platforming coupled with a great soundtrack and tons of replayability reminds me of when I first played Lumines during the original PSP’s launch.

What’s your experience been with the Vita’s latest offering?

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