Like the idea of creating your own electronic music but find
the actual process of fiddling with software a bit tedious? Sound Shapes for
the PS Vita makes use of dual touch panels to allow quick and intuitive
song-making, with the added bonus that your songs are also playable 2D
platforming levels. We played the game recently and got to focus on the song-creation
aspect, and we’re thinking Sound Shapes is looking like another contender for
best early PS Vita game, and one that even the musically challenged will find
to be a powerful sonic creative device.
Above: The yellow thing is you
The platforming gives you a little octopus-like ball for a
character, which can jump and stick to many surfaces. Almost everything your
ball touches emits a musical note of some kind, with collectible “dots”
initiating looping sounds so that once all dots are collected on a level, the
background music is complete. In order to build your own level/song, you go
into the editor and start with a blank screen with a grid background. You can
build objects in any order you like, but we wanted to ensure a pleasing song,
so we laid out the dots first before bothering with platforms and obstacles.
See, where a dot is placed on the grid determines the timing of when its
accompanying musical note is played, and also its pitch. As in Lumines, a
glowing vertical line starts on the left side of the screen and wipes across,
activating the dots as it goes. So you can plop down a dot, decide from a huge
menu what kind of sound it will be – keyboard, drum beat, weird space noise –
and then how you lay out each dot horizontally determines the rhythm. Then
sliding each dot higher or lower changes the pitch, creating melody.
The gliding line loops all while you place objects, so you
can hear the melody change in real time allowing you to make tweaks if a note
doesn’t sound quite right. We created a wavering, spaced-out trip-hop melody,
and then began building surfaces for the player to traverse. You want the
player to be able to unlock the entire song, so you want to build your
platforms so that every dot is in reach. Alternatively, you could build a stage
based purely on gameplay design, and then add the dots afterward to produce a
surprising melody you couldn’t expect. Either way, the game somehow cleverly
keeps songs from sounding horrible, at least in the time we played with it. We
didn’t even tweak our base melody much and it sounded beautiful.
Hazards placed in levels also produce their own sounds –
deadly vertical lasers fire off, sounding like hi-hats – so placement gets a
bit tricky as you try to balance a cool sounding song with proper platforming
challenge. At any time you can tap a button and you go from editing to playing
your level, so it’s easy to see if the gameplay works or not, allowing for
quick adjustments. It literally took us five minutes to create a beautiful song
accompanied by a (simple) level populated with floating blocks, laser traps,
and moving platforms. Spend a bit more time and you can create a multi-screen monster
of a level and get a really complex song out of it.
Above: Anything red is bad, but they also make cool sounds
Sound Shapes looks like it’s going to be
infectious whether you decide to be creative or not, because the existing
playable levels are well-designed with some awesome beats to get your head thumping.
We imagine few players will be able to resist creating at least one level of
their own, though, as playing the game provides plenty of inspiration for your