Sound Shapes and the New Music Game

by M. Joshua

Guitar Hero and Rock Band are dead and dying. Yes, there’s still a tiny bit of life left in Rock Band. But the creators and their audience hit a wall. Those games never fostered a culture of creativity. Yet the music game genre isn’t dead. Far from it.

Enter Sound Shapes.

What’s Sound Shapes?

Sound Shapes (PS3, Vita) is a side-scrolling platformer. It’s also six short albums of interactive music. Everything in this game is musical. You’re constantly working with and against the soundtrack. Hear a funky bass groove? Watch out for the cartoon missiles that move in-time. Find a creature to jump on? You can be sure he’ll add a charming sample to the track.

There’s no line between the music and the gameplay. It’s perfectly intertwined.

How does it play?

Back in the day, Metroid II gave you a power called the spider ball. You could cling to any surface and roll along on it: wall, ceiling, or floor. You could also jump in this form. In Sound Shapes, you play as something just like that. It never gets named. It’s just “you.”

As “you,” the music and levels unfold to your rolling, jumping and general musical collaboration. You’re collecting musical coins of sorts. They build your repository of creative tools (a la Little Big Planet). And what do you do with the musical coins? Make your own musical levels, of course!

Creativity is the heart of the game

You can start building your own custom levels right off the bat. You can also feel free to enjoy some of the best-rated creations from around the world. Not interested in the customizable experience thing? The game’s creativity isn’t restricted to the level-creation. The campaign is in and of itself quite the act of creation. Every section feels like you’re making something as you conquer it.

There’s something else that is exceptionally unique about this game: The game’s artwork itself is done by different teams and shops across the indie-game scene.

Indie (Game) Cred

The music of the game is three parts music by Canadian electronica artist, I Am Robot and Proud. One part music by Beck. One part music by Deadmau5. And one part music by Jim Guthrie of Superbrothers and Indie Game the Movie fame. And that’s only half of it. Each musical artist had their own visual arts team that created assets for their levels. Superbrothers did the art for Jim Guthrie’s songs, for example. It’s apparent that this culture of creativity fostered a great sense of collaboration. Multiple indie shops working together is a major highlight.

The game’s future

I loved that I could play through the campaign on this game within a short time (4 hours or better). But I also hope that the game’s campaign gets extended. Six albums is a good first installment. Six more albums for the same price (or less) would be extremely welcome.

Sound Shapes isn’t the first indie music platformer. It follows in the same train as Bit Trip Runner. And it might not even be the best music game out there right now. It just happens to be the most fun I’ve had playing one lately. I really hope this game gets the play it deserves.

What does God say about this game?

Okay, I know this blog is weird. I talk to God about the games I play and want to share with you what I believe he’s saying. Here’s his heart on Sound Shapes:

“This game captures the joy of music with the heart of creativity. It is is something that is truly good. It’s for everybody who likes music. Which is just about everybody.”

Sound Shapes is made by one-man-shop, Queasy Games, (and many of his friends).

It is available for PS3 and Playstation Vita for $14.99 on the Playstation Network (11.99 for PS+ members).