Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sound Shapes Gets User-Generated Content Right

I reviewed Sound Shapes over on the Secret Identity site this week. It’s a wonderful game that I think is the Vita’s first “must have” experience. Sound Shapes also falls under the genre of “Play, Create and Share” Sony games that started with Little Big Planet and continued with ModNation Racers. Of those three games however, Sound Shapes is the first one that has really clicked with me in terms of the user-created content. I’ve already spent more time with the community aspects of Sound Shapes than with both Little Big Planet and ModNation Racers combined.

I think there are two main reasons why I keep coming back to Sound Shapes. The first, and most important reason, is that the gameplay mechanics in Sound Shapes are excellent. I mean light years ahead of the Little Big Planet series. I never got used to the floaty controls of LBP, and as a result, never really got into the game. I thought ModNation was very solid mechanically, but it’s a racer, not a platformer, so I’m predisposed to like the gameplay of Sound Shapes more. Sound Shapes pretty much gets everything right--the jumping, the “stickiness” of your little blob to certain surfaces, and the degree of control you have when piloting ships or taking a running leap. The controls are tight, responsive and just a joy to experience.

The second reason I think Sound Shapes get the user-created content right is that it strikes a balance between the amount of options you have, and the ease of creating content. Little Big Planet had a ridiculous amount of content to use in creating levels, and Little Big Planet 2 had a million different ways to use that content. ModNation had less options, but actually creating the levels was fun and easy (laying track, placing objects, etc.) I feel like Sound Shapes strikes the perfect balance between the two. You unlock a sizeable amount of content options for level creation by playing through the campaign. And, creating the levels (especially on the Vita) is very simple and actually fun. Resizing and reorienting objects with the Vita touchscreens is a breeze, and the level editor keeps things simple in terms of creating and sharing levels. The way community content is sorted and featured in Sound Shapes also makes it easy to find and try new levels all the time.

For a $15 downloadable title, it’s really impressive how much Sound Shapes gets right. Whether it’s the mechanics of the game, or the way it approaches user-generated content, there’s a lot here for other developers to use as a blueprint moving forward.


P.S. If you do check out Sound Shapes, look for my level Ritual Madness in the Community section!