Chime Sharp PC Review
Six years ago a little puzzle game made a splash with DarkZero when we fell in love with the wonderfully engaging Chime. It’s a title that deserves to add itself to the list of great music-based puzzle games. You know the one, the list that includes the likes of Lumines and Meteos. Amusingly, when Chime first hit, some people were calling it the child of Lumines and Tetris, but the director, Ste Curran, always called it part-Tetris, part-sequencer. If those two were your parents, then that would be some big shoes to fill, but Chime should not be simply praised for being a mixture of those games, but for being a genuinely great puzzle game. Ste Curran went to Kickstarter to get the opportunity to create a sequel, and thanks to the success of the campaign and Early Access on Steam, Chime Sharp has landed to offer another addictive puzzle game.
Core gameplay remains like the predecessor. It’s about receiving the next shape in line and placing them on to a grid to form a quadrilateral that covers an area of at least 3×3, eventually covering the entire surface before the time runs out. Time is only a limiting factor when coming to Chime Sharp‘s scoring mechanics, as there is no automatic shapes that fall from the top, instead, players, simply place them where ever they like on the grid, as long as there is room for the shape. A formed quad slowly fills up into a solid colour to indicate a time limit, offering a few seconds to build upon the size until it’s too late and the quad sets itself in the grid when the beat passes over. Managing to build multiple quads across the grid will increase a multiplier to rake in the points, so while speed might not be forced upon you, it’s best to be quick with dropping shapes to reap the rewards of multiple built quads. Filling up the grid rewards bonus time that gets added on the fly to the stage countdown clock, making it ideal to spread the shapes around to go for multiple quads and easier coverage of the grid for high score, but beware, as any unused shapes will eventually phase away after a few passes of the time line.
It sounds easy on paper, and in reality, Chime Sharp manages to be a puzzle game that is extremely simple to understand what is needed to do well at the game, well, that is once you have had a few rounds, as the game throws you straight into it without a hint of a tutorial (tip, read the Steam guide for help). Of course, understanding and putting it into practice is a different thing entirely, and so to be actually great requires patience and a good eye to manage to hit that 100% coverage before the time runs out. New songs and modes are unlocked per song, with 40% needed for the next song unlock and 60% for the next mode. These unlocks add factors in keeping Chime Sharp exciting across its 15 levels/songs on offer – the multiple game modes for each song adds depth, meaning that players have to learn different speeds, shapes and grid layouts to find the prizewinning approach to each stage to gain the best scores possible.
The new Sharp mode puts a twist on the time-based gameplay by removing the countdown clock and replacing it with a life system. Each unused block that vanishes after a set amount of time will reduce a life. This style of play switches up hasty positioning for more strategic gameplay. Another new mode is Strike, a 90 second burst time attack that pushes players to the limit to see how many points can be accumulated in the short amount of time. And finally, for those ultimate players, a challenge mode unlocks for any song you manage to get over 90% coverage on during the standard game mode. Challenge mode is the ultimate test, with more wild designs and a limited amount of shapes throwing a spanner into the works for anyone thinking they had just mastered the game.
Chime Sharp plays beautifully, but it manages to be a visual treat too, with a minimalist, but clear and colourful design spicing up the screen without popping too much in your face. Music is truly where the magic lies, with a perfect selection of diverse songs that appropriately mould with the game’s aesthetics. Tunes range from chiptune music by Chipzel, who you might remember did the awesome Super Hexagon song, to 80s synth-pop by Kavinsky, with many other artists, the likes of Los, Shirobon, Magic Sword and others making the small 15 song soundtrack one that will get players bobbing and weaving to the beat of the music. It’s catchy stuff, and a puzzle game like this needs you to enjoy the music to become in the zone with it, especially when the music interacts with the positioning of blocks and builds itself from a single sample to a melody and then finally into the full song as you get closer to filling all the grid. It gives off a sense that you are creating the music, building the song yourself until it flourishes into full swing as each time bar passes over your creation, an experience I haven’t felt as well produced since Rez on the Dreamcast.
Chime Sharp builds upon the original Chime by stuffing it with more game modes and improving the presentation. The series once again brings a consolidation of simple, but addictive puzzle mechanics and a wonderfully pleasing dynamic soundtrack that combines together with the colourful visuals to deliver a challenging treat for anyone who likes a stimulating puzzle game with fantastic music.