by Brian LeTendre
I am prone to hyperbole, so take this with a grain of salt, but I think that Sound Shapes may be the Vita’s first killer app. Not only is it a great game that can be played in bite-sized chunks on Sony’s handheld, but it’s implementation of the touch controls actually makes the game a better experience on the Vita than on the PS3.
Sound Shapes is a musical platformer from Jonathan Mak (the creator of Everyday Shooter) and musician Shaw Han Liem. In the game you control a fried egg-looking blob that makes its way through levels by sticking to different surfaces, activating switches, avoiding projectiles, and even piloting ships. The levels are organized around particular pieces of music and a visual theme, packaged together as a record album. There are five albums total, and in addition to the music composed by Liem, there are albums by Superbrothers and Jim Guthrie, Deadmau5 and Beck, all of which feature all-new music.
I’m not a huge music game fan, but the melding of music and visual design in Sound Shapes is outstanding. From Deadmau5’s Space Invaders-inspired levels, to Beck’s dreamy cityscapes, the music is varied and the visuals are striking. My personal favorites were the Superbrothers/Jim Guthrie levels, as they had a similar style to Sword & Sworcery, but a completely different theme. All of them are a blast to play through, and you can finish the main campaign in three to four hours.
But the campaign is just the tip of the iceberg. Each level you beat unlocks a variety of items that you can use to build your own levels in the level editor. And with the Vita’s front and rear touchscreens, making levels is easy, as they allow you to be much more precise than you would be with a controller. You can upload levels for the community to play, and a liking system allows the cream of the user-created levels to rise to the top. There are already thousands of levels to play through, featuring tributes to everything from Shadow of the Colossus to Donkey Kong.
I would be shocked if there isn’t a ton of DLC coming for Sound Shapes in the future. The idea of a well-known musician contributing a few tracks to make an album in the game just seems like a no-brainer to me. Combined with the ever-growing number of community levels, the game offers a lot of replayability.
Sound Shapes may not provide enough of an incentive to actually go out and buy a Vita, but it’s easily the best experience I’ve had on the platform yet. I’m sure it’s fun on the PS3 as well, but it was clearly designed to take full advantage of Sony’s handheld, and it does just that. No matter which platform you play it on, you should absolutely check it out.