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Sound Shapes preview: Run, jump, dance


Do you own any of the following?

A. Very flexible, DJ-quality headphones
B. A messenger bag sized specifically for vinyl records
C. A modded Game Boy/Game Boy Color/etc. for creating music
D. The freshest styles and moves, straight from Planet Funketron

If you answered "Yes" to any of the above, and you also share my love for precision platforming in video games like N+ and Super Meat Boy, then Sound Shapes is gonna be your jam.

Gallery: Sound Shapes (E3 2011) | 3 Photos

Everyday Shooter creative lead Jonathan Mak casually stood next to his development partner at Queasy Games, Shaw-Han Liem, who nervously sat next to him an empty chair. The two Toronto-based artists were in New York City late last week to show off their studio's latest creation, a music-creation platformer for PlayStation Vita called Sound Shapes.

Beyond being half of the duo who thought up Sound Shapes, Liem is better known -- at least in Toronto -- as "I Am Robot and Proud," composer of indie electronic tunes. Liem's background is pertinent in the case of Sound Shapes, as so, so much of the game is steeped in music.

He kicked off the demo by showing me the basics: running, jumping, and sticking to stuff. The main character is a little circular suction cup thing with many arms ("Suction Cuptopus™" was the best I came up with), so he sticks to lots of surfaces. He's very agile and imparts a noticeable sense of momentum, so I had little problem navigating across treacherous 2D landscapes. And when he does miss a platform and fall to his death, the level restart isn't far away, quickly dropping you back into the action a la Super Meat Boy.

He's also totally magical, because whenever he comes into contact with particular pieces of the environment, they start making a particular sound (on repeat). While you unlock more and more sounds throughout each rectangular stage, an orchestra of noises blends to create that particular stage's song. Like Rez, stage after stage gave me the sense that I was somehow creating beautiful music. I was also enjoying myself enough hopping Mr. Cuptopus™ from one side of the level to the other that I couldn't always keep track of each new layered beat. Equally memorable were the striking visuals of the levels I played -- created at least in part by Might & Magic Clash of Heroes dev Capybara Games.

Liem also showed me the ridiculously thorough level/music creation editor. Employing multitouch on the Vita's front screen, the back screen for editing shape locations and sizes, and several instrument options (as well as a full musical scale for each), Sound Shapes' music creator offers an impressive amount of depth. As your level takes shape, the press of a button makes it immediately playable, allowing for instant playtesting and iteration -- something Mak said has lent itself well to the game's development. "Every time we add something cool musically, it might mess up the gameplay because they're all tied together. And if I do something gameplay-wise, then that might mess up the music," Mak explained.

As the above trailer implies, said levels will be sharable with friends online, though no plans have been solidified just yet. I was also told that players will be able to release packs of levels, as "albums," though Queasy isn't sure exactly how it'll be handled. Needless to say, I was very impressed with what I saw -- so much so that I'm now very much considering picking up a PlayStation Vita when it launches this winter. I may even get myself a pair of fancy DJ headphones to go along with it.

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