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Critical Reception: Queasy Games' Sound Shapes

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Queasy Games' PlayStation 3 and PS Vita rhythm-platformer Sound Shapes, which reviews describe as "an emotional crescendo."

Danny Cowan

August 8, 2012

4 Min Read

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Queasy Games' PlayStation 3 and PS Vita rhythm-platformer Sound Shapes, which reviews describe as "an emotional crescendo." Sound Shapes currently earns a score of 83 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. Game Informer's Kyle Hilliard scores Sound Shapes at 9 out of 10. "Sound Shapes is a simple platformer that incorporates music in such a significant way, that it feels like a rhythm game, but without the need for all that pesky rhythm," he notes. "You play as a little ball with a dot on it, sticking to walls and jumping between platforms on a journey to collect notes," Hilliard explains. "As you collect notes, the music grows more complex, building and building until you feel as though you have been instrumental in the creation of a full song that narrates your adventure." Despite the simple premise, the gameplay proves engaging. "The way the music manifests itself around you creates a surprisingly emotional experience," Hilliard praises. "You won't find a discernable plot of any kind, but as the music builds, you can't help but feel as though you are climbing to an emotional crescendo." "I'm surprised by how personally involved I became in the journey of a tiny little ball with a dot on it," Hilliard admits. "Sound Shapes is an excellent platformer, but the music that progressively fills each stage as you move forward is really what makes the game something special." Arthur Gies at Polygon also gives Sound Shapes a 9 out of 10. "New ideas are good," he begins. "Visual flash can be fun. A message? Sure, why not? But execution is where most games live or die. It's how we separate intent from success. Sound Shapes' developer Queasy Games and their various collaborators seem to understand this more than most." "While Sound Shapes doesn't have a surplus of new ideas, exactly, it does have a clear objective in mind," Gies continues. "Combining melodies of ever-increasing complexity with well-concepted, unique art styles that evolve and develop in fun and surprising ways over the course of each album, Sound Shapes takes you on a journey through each level like hearing a song you love for the first time." Gies praises the game's lack of player punishment for death. "Sound Shapes diverges from the platformer formula in some ways though, the most obvious being the absence of meaningful death," he explains. "While you can 'die' in Sound Shapes by touching anything colored red, you'll immediately reappear at the last checkpoint you touched, ready to try again. Levels aren't your adversary, so much as a race course to be finished as quickly as possible, while still grabbing all the coins scattered throughout." "Sound Shapes' platforming balances the easy successes of simple jumps with more Rube Goldberg-influenced sequences that fall into place like complicated arrangements of dominoes," Gies says. "While the 'campaign' is short-ish at five albums of four to five songs each, every level is crafted so well around very specific concepts that it's hard not to get caught up in them." VideoGamer.com's Jon Denton rates Sound Shapes at 7 out of 10. "Everything is in place for [the PS Vita] to soar into the handheld gaming stratosphere. And yet, with the world at its feet, there is nothing to play," he asserts. "Keen to rectify this situation is Queasy Games' impressive Sound Shapes -- a true original and finally something worth getting excited about for that shiny fella sitting the drawer." "As a game it's pure abstraction; a platformer where you construct music as you play, but also where music defines the very parameters of each level," Denton continues. "Anything red is dangerous, and carries its own musical signature, so you can actually navigate the levels using the beat as well as your own dexterity, like a far less rigid Beat Sneak Bandit with a trilby and hipster glasses." "Unfortunately, for all the game's ambition, and for all the whimsy and mirth it is so capable of providing, it falls into the same trap as LittleBigPlanet -- excruciating platforming," Denton writes. "This is a genre where the bar has been set so ludicrously high, so Sound Shapes' overly-fiddly jumping sections and insta-deaths can be infuriating." Death disrupts the game's flow, Denton argues. "Sound Shapes' real crime is not just the irritation of dying (which isn't too awful on its own, considering how kind the checkpointing is), but the fact the music is repeatedly halted and rewound, turning what could and should be euphoric and uplifting into the worst aural atrocity [...]." "A flawed gem, then," Denton concludes. "I found it mightily upsetting to have something in my hands capable of such beauty, such triumphant gaming bliss, only to have that thing ultimately turn into disappointment and frustration. It's almost more upsetting than playing something that was never up to much in the first place."

About the Author(s)

Danny Cowan


Danny Cowan is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist for Gamasutra and its subsites. Previously, he has written reviews and feature articles for gaming publications including 1UP.com, GamePro, and Hardcore Gamer Magazine.

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