For all of us artsy-fartsy types.
Flower. REZ. Limbo. If the thoughts of those games turns you off, you might as well go back to your bang-bang-kaboom-FPS affairs, because Sound Shapes isn't for you. And no, it isn't a kindergarten game that asks “What sound does the ____ make?”, though I'd understand the assumption given its name. An experimental, experiential title for the Vita, it piqued my interest not so much for its similarities to games like Flower, but more for its open-ended potential for user-generated content.
Sound Shapes is a very simple concept—players control a sticky ball that rolls around and jumps, clinging itself to, err, clingable objects. In that regard, it plays like a 2D platformer. But the catch is that each level is a song that gets built upon as the player traverses it. As your ball touches or slides across different objects, they will create different sounds, from guitar strums to drum beats. There are some collectable rounded squares that will get tallied up at the end, and once you grab them, they will flash out beats from where they once rested. It makes for a game that feels in line with Flower and REZ, where the fun isn't inherently in completing the game but fiddling around with it, making the audio dance along with you.
I played a handful of levels that seemed to be from the game's 'campaign', and they varied in length and intensity. One involved a slower, methodical pace using gears that rotated in syncopation while another was much shorter, with imagery and sounds evocative of a violent murder. They demonstrate a surprising amount of variety and tone given the extreme simplicity of the concept.
Then, I noticed an extra menu: one where I could create my own levels. I could tinker with the instruments, place objects and collectables, and create my own beats and background music by tapping at different portions of the screen. The range of notes were restricted enough where no matter where I tapped and prodded, it still ended up sounding in harmony. The touch screen interface, when matched with the elegant simplicity of the game, makes it much easier to create—and find—levels that are unique and engaging. As amazing as LittleBigPlanet is, it can be very intimidating to make something truly worthwhile, but in Sound Shapes, I don't foresee that being a problem.
If you believe that less is more, and that games can be artful, Sound Shapes will fit the bill for you. And since it'll be on PS Vita, you can even take it with you when you go to Starbucks so you can feel even more
hipster sophisticated. In either case, it won't be for everyone, but for those who've been wanting to see something that isn't just another PS3 port on the Vita, Sound Shapes will strike a chord.