If You’ve Ever Wanted To Climb Around Inside A Beck Song, This Game’s For You

Sound Shapes has been out for a couple of weeks now, and I think it’s finally time I wrote something about it here on Kotaku Melodic. It’s been a bit tough to get the average gamer interested in the game for some reason, even though it’s one of the most clever, musical games I’ve played all year. (And that’s taking into account that 2012 has been a real barn-burner for clever, musical games.)

Sound Shapes is a game for the PlayStation 3 and the PlayStation Vita… it’s about music, but it’s also a platformer like Mario. Evan pretty much summed up why it’s so great in his official review. But it’s a tough game to write about — it’s like a playable music video, and you really have to see it in action to get what it’s all about.

I think that the level shown above, titled “Cities,” captures everything I love about Sound Shapes, and why I think that this kind of interactive music video could be a great avenue for musicians to publish their music in the future. The backing track is by Beck, and the level itself is like a moving, breathing, shifting representation of the music that’s playing. The smokestacks pulse in time, and those smokestacks are actually the game elements that create some of the sounds. Deadly red rockets soar, but as they do so, they spit out basslines. And best of all, lyrics appear and disappear as Beck sings them.

Watching the video is cool, but playing it is better — suddenly you really have to listen. “Okay,” you think, “the bass is moving in this pattern, and so are those deadly rockets, so I better move in… THIS part of the measure.” And then you hit the part at 3:17, where the song’s lyrics form platforms that you have to jump on to proceed. BUT! The platforms change depending on the lyric:

  • “Move a little” – The blocks shift to the side.
  • “Turn a little” – They turn sideways, knocking you off into the fire below
  • “Break a little” – They break up into a formation that’s difficult to get around
  • “Hurt a little” – They turn red and will kill you! Ouch!
  • “Lose a little” – The blocks disappear. Look out!

OK, so. I’m sure I’m not the first guy to mention this part of the game, and that’s because it’s the moment when you really realise what Sound Shapes is all about, and just how wonderfully creative it is. You’re really in the song, thinking about the rhythm of the melody and what the lyrics mean (!!) in order to proceed. It’s so clever, it’s so cool. It’s why I love Sound Shapes.

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