Sound Shapes was one of the first games revealed for the PlayStation Vita but it has yet to actually release. Having played the game through various stages of its development process, I can definitely say that a lot has changed since Sound Shape’s initial reveal. At its core, the game is still a stylish platformer whose soundtrack is affected by the way you play. But the game now feels more comprehensive than it did before, as it finally approaches launch. The mechanics are more inventive and better implemented than they appeared in previous builds, which makes Sound Shapes seem much more ambitious than originally anticipated.
I was able to play through the game’s tutorial and a few of the more challenging levels found later in the game. You begin by controlling a round object using the left analog stick for navigation. As this is a platformer, pressing the X button causes your object to jump. The reason I don’t call said round object a ball is because (as the game explains) pressing the R button turns you into a ball capable of smoothly rolling along surface. The rules of the game are simple. Anything that is red in color will kill you, be it an enemy firing projectiles or simply a red platform protruding from the wall. Conversely, you are able to stick to any white surfaces as long as you are not in ball form. You simply roll along black surfaces normally, without receiving damage or being able to stick to them.
When playing, you collect notes that add another beat to the soundtrack of the level. The tone of the note is relative to its vertical location on the screen; low notes produce low sounds and high up notes produce higher sounds. It really is something special to hear the soundtrack get richer as you complete more of a level. Each level ends by reaching a golden record found at the end. The game is challenging and requires a special combination of patience and good timing. Fortunately, the penalty for death is not severe; there are no game-over screens and you will simply move back to the latest checkpoint should you die. The level design is very imaginative and complemented well by the accompanying audio track. In one area I slid down inclines as a ball before jumping onto and adhering to a moving white sphere which I had to roll around strategically in order to avoid oncoming enemy fire and reach the other side of the screen, all while collecting more notes that made the beat more intense. One particularly interesting level I played was the product of collaboration between the developers and Deadmaus. The level was expansive, visually rich, challenging, and accompanied by an original song from the artist to boot.
I also had an opportunity to test drive the level editor for the first time. Sound Shapes allows you to create your own levels using intuitive touch commands. You can do everything from position musical notes, place enemies, and resize and rotate platforms to create challenging chasms to jump over. I only got a small taste but there seem to be enough options to create wonderful and unique levels that you can of course share with friends and the world through the internet.
One of the biggest new developments concerning Sound Shapes is that it is no longer Vita exclusive. The game will be released August 7th of this year on both the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita. For the one-time purchase price of $14.99 you will be able to download both the console and handheld versions of Sound Shapes. Your save files will be cross-compatible between both platforms, as will all future DLC. The E3 demo I played felt strangely complete. I can say with confidence that the game has been shaping up nicely over the course of its extended development.