Review: The beat goes on in Sony's 'Sound Shapes'

Associated Press Modified: August 9, 2012 at 8:45 am •  Published: August 9, 2012
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The platform game abides. It may have the least appealing name imaginable — see, your character has to jump between platforms — but in recent years the genre has attracted the interest of a whole posse of young game designers. With hits like "Fez," ''Braid" and "Limbo," the platformer is enjoying the kind of attention it hasn't drawn since the heyday of "Super Mario Bros."

In "Sound Shapes" (Sony, for PlayStation 3, Vita, $14.99), developer Queasy Games boils the platformer down to its bare essentials. Your "character" is a tiny ball that can roll, accelerate and jump. It can stick to some surfaces, but anything red will kill it. On each screen, the object is to collect all the floating discs and get to the exit.

Those discs, however, are what put the sound in "Sound Shapes." Each represents a musical note — so, as you collect them, you're building a musical composition. As you progress through each level, the music gets more intense as the action gets more challenging.

This sort of music-building experiment isn't completely original; the 2010 puzzle game "Chime" offered similar rewards. But the graphics and music in "Sound Shapes" blend so smoothly that each of its two dozen levels feels like it's telling a story.

In "D-Cade," for example, electronic music phenom deadmau5 collaborates with retro game studio PixelJam on a tribute to the arcade classic "Asteroids." ''Corporeal," by Jim Guthrie and Superbrothers — the team behind 2011's iPad hit "Sword & Sworcery EP" — takes place in a sterile office building.

Most infectious is "Cities," in which the design studio Pyramid Attack presents a crumbling city in flames while Beck's soundtrack gurgles in the background. At times, Beck's vocals turn visual and become part of the puzzle. It's one of the most joyful fusions of music and gameplay I've ever experienced.