Music makers will dig PS Vita's Sound Shapes



10:31 AM on 08.28.2011

Platformers?  Love 'em. You can't make enough. Platformers of any type appeal to the gamer in me. But upcoming PS Vita game Sound Shapes also speaks to the musician in me. It's slick platforming and musical creation. You can create music that actually becomes the levels that you platform in. After spending a bit of time trying both sides of this game out and then seeing how they come together, it has moved up to be one of my most anticipated titles. 

Sound Shapes creators say that it is both a 2D platformer and a musical instrument. Several games have attempted to mix musical elements into gameplay, but this one goes a step beyond and gives the player total freedom to create a sequence that actually becomes the level. It's not some kind of abstract thing where some somewhat random musical cue will sound after being triggered, either. In this game you're platforming to "play" the music.

The platforming side plays out with a little rolling ball...thing that sticks to all surfaces. The problem is that all the surfaces are small, and that there's always danger (any platform or obstacle colored red) nearby. As the player, you want to avoid red, but look for other environmental pieces to come in contact with. Each one touched initiates a new sound to be played, triggered in its own time in a 16-bar musical loop. You want to come in contact with all of the musical elements so that you are able to hear every bit of the intended composition. The goal is to come in contact with all the musical elements while surviving challenging 2D plaforming levels

What's really cool about Sound Shapes is that the physical placement of each of these musical elements directly corresponds to their musical placement on a 16-step musical/beat grid. That wasn't apparent to me until I saw that each dot on the musical grid was placed exactly where the musical element was in the game stage. In this editor you are able to plunk down dots that trigger notes from several musical instruments or drums, and it gives you just as much creative freedom as any musical sequencer would. Musicians will be impressed by the level of musical freedom provided here, as there's really a full-featured music making program within the level editor.

Your music becomes a level when you throw in background patterns and foreground obstacles, platforms and more. The Vita's touch screen lets you plunk down any object from the menu, while the back screen lets you use multiple fingers to move and resize any object freely. At any time, a soft button on the touch screen can be tapped to try out your level. 

Using these tools I was able to compose a short loop of pretty music, add in a solid beat, throw in some platforms and obstacles, and then try it out for myself. That's great about Sound Shapes is that level design can be approached from either the musical or platforming side. Those that are musically inclined will get a kick out of how robust the tools are for creating songs, and then they can make a level around the song, but those into making a deep, challenging  platforming can just as easily focus on the level design tools, with the music taking a back seat. Either approach is going to make a stage that looks and sounds cool, and will most likely be fun to play through. 

Sound Shapes will take full advantage of the Vita's online connectivity. Uploading and sharing of levels will be supported. You could even take someone else's song or level, remix it and then re-upload it. 

I think it's apparent that I'm more excited about the musical side of Sound Shapes than the platforming side, but this title is looking so good that I think any fan of either music or challenging platforming action will be pleased. 



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