Playlist 2012: Sound Shapes

Sound Shapes PS3 | Queasy Games | September

Have you ever seen a speed-run of a video game? It becomes slightly musical at a point.

From a young age, I’ve always understood video games as an intersection between visuals and sound. Things run around on the screen until they run into something else, setting off some kind of alarm. It might be rewarding, penalizing, or warning you, but there is no denying its hidden rhythm. Somewhere between platforming, abstract art, content creation and music composition, Sound Shapes is a budding intersection between multiple forms of media as well. 

Although it feels inspired by the emergent gameplay of old-school platformers, Sound Shapes can be appreciated in a number of ways for reasons that are all but accidental. At first glance, it’s a minimalist side-scroller adorning an eclectic sense of style (thanks to its many contributors), but look at it from other perspectives and it becomes an interactive visualizer (the backseat gamer), a world building tool (the designer), a loop sampler (the composer) or an obstacle course (the gladiator).

Sound Shapes feels designed to feed all of these different appetites head-on, my own being a fascination with seeing games and music share an ebb & flow. As both a musician and a past game designer, I’ve always wanted to develop a game where the layers of its soundtrack are made transparent by tethering them to the player’s actions. Queasy Games hits the nail on the head here, especially since they’ve built level creation and distribution tools right into it. Whether you aim to create from a level designer’s point of view, or focus on crafting a song worth peeling back one collectible at a time, Sound Shapes is your guide to a music-world builder that’s loaded with potential.

It’s worth noting though that the music and its level can easily get in the way of each other at times. A great hook will beg you to coast through the level, but its jumps are far too difficult to keep the momentum up on your first few attempts, simultaneously bringing the music to a stall. In other situations, a level might feel really great to trek through, but the song it generates tends to meander. It’s in these moments that Sound Shapes still seems like it’s getting the hang of itself, but at the same time it feels refreshingly experimental and leaves me optimistic to see where Queasy Games and/or the community learn to take it from here.

soundshapes-sqSounds Shapes has the joyful side effect of sounding like a producer toggling between tracks in the mixing room, when it’s actually just you strolling through a scene. I found it valuable to learn that a fun level doesn’t always spawn a great song, nor does a great song always spawn a fun level–and maybe they don’t always have to. But when they do, it’s really something else.

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