Sound Shapes for the PlayStation Vita and PS3 is essentially an interactive video game mixtape. Developer Queasy Games masterfully blends together work from various visual artists, designers, and musicians for the different stages in this charming 2D platformer. The level editor gives players the creative freedom to put together and share remixes and mashups. And everything in this colorful, minimal PlayStation Network title is tied together in an an ode to physical recorded music.
Sound Shapes’ different worlds all feel fresh thanks to the different combinations of artists and musicians involved. In one area, independent game developer PixelJam provides the aesthetics while electronic-music producer Deadmau5 kicks out the jams. In another, composer Jim Guthrie reunites with designer Superbrothers for a series of stages that look like their previous project, Sword & Sworcery EP, but in a corporate-office setting.
The player navigates these audio-visual crossovers as a little amoeba-eyeball-looking thing that triggers notes and sounds on a hidden music sequencer. Rustling through a file cabinet creates some nice xylophone sounds while jumping on a bouncy dinosaur-like creature briefly adds his squeak to the song. One could easily play Sound Shapes not as a game but as a sort of digital instrument for a performance. The audience wouldn’t ever hear the same song twice, and the mixtape idea continues to stay and sound fresh.
As players work through the stages, they can unlock the featured enemies, props, and sounds to remix into custom levels. This do-it-yourself charm extends into the game’s greater community as fans can share their creations online. After all, Sound Shapes wouldn’t be a proper mixtape if the individual couldn’t customize it and pass around copies. Even better, the home-made levels are represented in the game as little cassette tapes with the name written on the casing.
The tribute to analog sound doesn’t end there, however. The world-select screen represents each choice as an album cover. From there, the level-select screen looks like a turntable where you use the needle to choose between different songs (or stages) on a vinyl record. These stylish aesthetics show the designers’ admiration for recorded music in its tangible form, and, ironically, their love letter comes as a digital download.
Sound Shapes is essentially a series of mashups. It mixes unique visual art with original music. It weaves analog elements into a digital space. It also combines the mechanics of 2D platformers with music sequencers. As a whole, these elements combine to become a wonderful interactive mixtape that I pray becomes a new trend in the industry.