The anticipated game that has been on the radars of puzzle masters and music geeks alike, Chime Sharp, has finally made its debut on Steam.
The second that the developers at Chilled Mouse announced that Chime, their successful multi-platform puzzler, would have a sequel under the moniker “Chime Sharp,” they were recognized by Kickstarter on Twitter and their Kickstarter campaign became an immediate Staff Pick. It’s safe to say there was a fair amount of hype behind this release, but Chime Sharp seems to stand up pretty well to the high expectations its predecessor left in its wake.
Chime Sharp is a game that has a simple concept but is executed with great attention to aesthetic and elegance. The combination of this simple yet stunning design gives the player an almost trance-like playing experience. At a glance, the game is reminiscent of Tetris, with similar-looking shapes and catchy electronic music, but that is where the similarity stops. The player is given a large grid board, starting out with a perfect rectangle, and as the player moves through the levels and difficulties, the board’s shape changes into unique forms to make for a harder challenge. By using either a mouse or keyboard (dealer’s choice), the player drags the geometric pieces around the grid and fit them into “quads.” These quads are essentially complete rectangles that the various pieces can create to add on multipliers and time bonuses while the player attempts to achieve the primary challenge of the game, which is to cover as much of the board as possible. The larger the quad, the more points added, but the sought-after “perfect quad” is when you can fit the pieces into a quad with no leftover squares. These perfect quads get their own special bonus and are incredibly satisfying in their own right.
One of the interesting elements to the gameplay is how the developers decided to slightly change the pieces with every level. In one level, the player might be given “L” shapes and long straight pieces with which to cover the board. In the next level, however, the player might be given pieces that are in a plus sign shape or pieces that resemble stair-steps. Many puzzle games like Tetris differentiate levels by speed and nothing else, which can lead to either redundancy and boredom, or just plain old frustration-based rage-quitting. Chime Sharp takes a new approach by not only constraining the time and speed of the challenge but also presenting an entirely new set of pieces and game board with each challenge. It’s as if with every level, the player has to become accustomed to an entirely new situation in order to implement the already-taught rules.
Hands down, the most appealing part of Chime Sharp is the masterfully-implemented use of sound.
The soundtrack itself is gorgeous and unique, with progressive and classical artists like Steve Reich, CHVRCHES, and Living Phantoms. Utilizing popular artists for game soundtracks is not a new concept. The Little Big Planet franchise’s soundtrack worked wonderfully with their sounds from Passion Pit. Chime Sharp, however, doesn’t just run the songs of these bands and artists in the background of the game on a loop. As the player, however poorly or well you are doing in the level is how much of the song you get to hear. It’s an added incentive to an already addicting puzzle game. The level starts with a one-track song, usually a pleasing and simple melody. With every quad created, another track is added onto the song and the player gets closer and closer to the full score that the artist composed for this level. Along with quads, every move that the player makes is accompanied by its own musical note, unique to each score, which is strangely reminiscent of games like the artful PSN phenomenon, Flower. It leaves the player with the unique effect of the music rising and becoming more powerful and harmonic with every small victory. With this concoction of psychological musical voodoo, the game manages truly to enrapture the player in the gaming experience. A different artist hosts every level with a different score, and with each score comes a new color scheme to match. Pastels accompany the more classical-sounding scores, where deep blacks and neon greens are paired with the harder electronic sounds.
With an amalgamation of beautiful sounds and colors, the aesthetic of Chime Sharp is its most defining attribute, but this puzzle game is much more than just skin-deep. The interesting and challenging gameplay kept my attention, as I had to learn to utilize new shapes and strategies with every level. With the different modes, scores, and levels, Chime Sharp has a very high replay value and doesn’t fall into the usual pitfalls of redundancy, to which other puzzlers are prone. The challenges do get increasingly difficult, but not to the point of unapproachability. Even with the initial hype that started with the announcement and lasted all through development, Chime Sharp does not disappoint.