Sound Shapes review for PS Vita, PSN

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PSN
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Queasy Games/Sony Santa Monica
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: Yes

Sound Shapes is a musical platformer recently released for both the PS3 and PS Vita, featuring a customizable level editor, user created levels, and stages designed by various creators of other indie hits, with a soundtrack backed by recognizable industry names like Deadmau5 and Beck. It?s also totally fantastic, and absolutely worth picking up if you enjoy platformers at all.

It?s weird to think that in a year where we get another new 2D Super Mario game that any other platformer could come out and handily trump that experience, but Sound Shapes does just that for me. Not to say that Mario has fallen off exactly, but there?s something that just feels fresh and new in Sound Shapes that wasn?t delivered by Nintendo?s latest adventure, and Sound Shapes manages to remind me that there?s still some life to be had in this particular genre.

The thing that really stands out to me in Sound Shapes, outside of the superb editor mechanic and added value that comes from user created stages to download, is how well designed each stage in the campaign is. There?s a massive amount of variety between the worlds, represented by individual records, which come with their own themes and artist backed soundtracks.

There are only five worlds in total, with about 3 to 4 stages on average for each world. But each stage seems to introduce new mechanics, enemies, or obstacles to overcome, and its use of the background music to help you navigate each stage is wholly unique. It also gives added functionality to the concept of simple coin collecting, giving you a reason to snatch up every coin regardless of how out of reach that coin is, as it impacts the way the background music plays by introducing new beats and notes to the track.

It?s also not the easiest game in the world, providing some truly difficulty moments across these five worlds. And once the campaign is finished, you?ll unlock access to Death mode, which creates super-hard challenges for each world that?ll really test your skill and precision in a style that feels reminiscent of Super Meat Boy. Seriously, Death mode is no joke, and I have a long way to go before I could ever hope to finish it.

With the game being released on both the Vita and PS3, I spent some time playing on both platforms. I opted to finish the game on the Vita, but really, either platform is pretty much ideal here. I think I prefer toying around with the level editor function on the PS3, some of the touch screen mechanics were a little difficult for me on the Vita, especially anything involving the rear touch pad. But outside of that, both versions provided a near identical experience and I think it really comes down to what controller you?d prefer to play the game with. Either way, purchasing one version nets you both versions of the game, which is a definite plus.

There?s a nice little tutorial at the onset of the game, introducing you to the basic mechanics of the game, plus something to get you started on creating your own stages. As you advance through the campaign and finish stages, you?ll also unlock new materials to use in your user created stuff, and there are a hefty number of options to toy around with once you finish the campaign. Crafting a level involves not only placing objects, obstacles and enemies across a number of screens, but also placing coins to manipulate the beat of the music, making this a two-fold experience. It?s fun and easy enough to mess around with, but I?ve got a ways to go before I?ll ever be able to put together anything that I would label as good.

Besides editing and creating your own stages, you can check out and play through other user created levels by entering the Community tab of the main menu. From here you can search by most popular stages, or by newest, and there?s already a hefty amount of stages to check out. Quality is pretty hit or miss here, but there are certainly a couple gems present that are worth checking out.

Overall, I found Sound Shapes to be an absolute joy to play, with little to no complaints about the actual game itself. Outside of some clunky feeling mechanics on the level editing side via the Vita touch screen, this marks my favorite platforming experience since Rayman Origins. It?s such a unique, fun, and beautiful game, with a great amount of variety and excellent stage design that you?ll find yourself having a hard time putting it down. I?d highly urge you to check this one out if you?re an owner of either platform, I don?t think you?ll be disappointed.

Grade: A