The Vita sailed into the doldrums within a few weeks. After the thrill of Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Motorstorm RC wore off, early adopters were left with precious little to play or even look forward to thanks to Sony's bizarre decision to almost completely clam up about upcoming releases. Even Gravity Rush couldn't stop the inexorable onset of malaise and discontent from permeating the player base over the last few months, most of whom continually railed against the publisher and, rightfully, demanded to know exactly why they'd bothered to pick up the expensive gizmo in the first place. My Vita soon started gathering dust on its luscious five inch screen, overshadowed by the 3DS XL and its delicious selection of new titles.
So it's with no small measure of surprise that I recently realised something: my Vita has barely left my hands over the last fortnight, save to hurriedly type up some news and reviews while its woefully small battery recharges. Sony has created a small yet powerful perfect storm of gaming goodness that makes their pricey handheld a must-have gadget for the time being, one that provides a nifty and unique little set of games unavailable on any other platform.
But will it last?
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Platforms: PS3 | PS Vita
Developers: Queasy Games | SCE Santa Monica
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
It takes less than a minute. After busting through the two tutorial levels of Sound Shapes - one that explains how to play, and one that teaches you how to create and share - I'm less than one minute into the first level when a smile begins to take control of my face.
Guiding a little gelatinous blob through a dazzlingly colourful landscape that proves highly reminiscent of Q-Games' work on the PixelJunk series, the aim is to pick up the floating blue orbs littered about the place as one moves from A to B. Each orb corresponds to a musical note or beat, and so, as I gobble up the musical debris, the background aural ambience begins to swell. Synths and strings are layered on top of one another by my actions, with the landscape and the items and enemies dotted about it forming a base tune that shifts in elements as you progress from frame to frame.
The creation and manipulation of music, through the medium of good old-fashioned platforming, is what forms the heart of Sound Shapes. Even the various levels in the game are collected into "albums", with three or four tunes per album, and five finely-crafted albums to start off with.
Each of the albums has its own distinct personality, and that's down to the creative cocktail of talent at work here. Queasy have collaborated closely with a number of artists to create a series of soundscapes that moves from angular electronica through into the smooth ambience of Sworcery's Jim Guthrie, with hints of psychedelia later on, the pulsating basslines from Deadmaus and the broken beats of Beck rounding off the show later on.Click here to read more...
Superbrothers - the bunch of devs behind iOS (and now PC) hit Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP - are teaming up once again with sound guru Jim Guthrie, and have announced that they'll be contributing material to the upcoming PS vita title Sound Shapes.Click here to read more...
Any game from Jonathan Mak, the developer behind the excellent PSN SHMUP Everyday Shooter, is a cause for celebration... and it's clear that every shred of his 2D pedigree is being leveraged into his first Vita title. Sound Shapes takes the increasingly popular concept of player actions creating organic music and sound (used to devastating audial effect in ES) and takes it to the next level: making each level a song in itself.
In this 2D platformer, players control a rotating wheel that bristles with sticky pads that allow our circular hero to stick to any surface. These suckers can be retracted to provide fast, frictionless movement, but naturally you can't latch onto anything while enjoying your burst of increased speed. The intricate levels are packed with floating platforms, lava and spikes - and your weak jump makes working out the best routes to the exit an absolute necessity. When every wall and surface is a potential path, even the most basic platforming mechanics need to be re-learned from scratch.
The aim of Sound Shapes is to collect the huge number of pickups scattered throughout the sprawling stages; of which there are thirty arranged into tracks on an LP. This should lend the full version plenty of value, and the fact that you can complete a level without nabbing absolutely every collectible should provide serious replayability for completionists.Click here for more details about this remarkable platformer >>