Chime XBLA Review

This probably doesn’t really count as a review. After all, the point of a review is to answer the reader’s questions – chiefly, “Is this game worth getting, or what?” – but that’s not really what’s happening here. In fact, I’ve got a few questions for you: Have you bought Chime yet? And if not, why not?

Okay, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you’ve never heard of it. It was last week’s Xbox Live Arcade release, and it’s being described by many as ‘Tetris meets Lumines’. This isn’t totally off the mark, but personally I’d sooner just call it ‘a better version of Lumines’. You place shapes on a grid and, once you’ve built a shape that’s at least three squares long on each side, it forms a ‘quad’. Quads then have a time-limit during which you can add more blocks to them, increasing your score, before they ‘set’ and can’t be built upon any further. That’s not necessarily the end of the world, though, as forming more, separate quads will increase your score multiplier.

As you’re doing this, a line is sweeping from left to right, much like in Lumines. As it passes over each block that hasn’t been used as part of a quad, those blocks slowly change colour, indicating that they’ve been hanging around too long. Leave a block unused for long enough and it will disappear, ending your score multiplier in the process. You’d assume that the process of making quads bigger and mopping up stray blocks would go hand-in-hand, but it doesn’t quite work that way. Instead, you find yourself engaging in a compelling juggling act between the two goals, trying to expand your quads without sacrificing your multiplier in the process.

Then there’s ‘coverage’. When a quad is set, it’ll hang around briefly then disappear, but the area it occupied is ‘covered’ – it can be used again, but it’s a different colour than before. Covering certain percentages of the grid in this way buys you more time, encouraging you to consider your movement around the grid rather than simply hanging around in one spot.

What helps is that this is all wrapped up in some of the most seamless and enjoyable interactive music you’ll ever hear in a video game. Lumines tried to do something similar, but most of the time you were just triggering rubbish vocal samples that didn’t really engage with the music in any real way. In Chime, you really get the sensation that you’re building the music yourself – the positions of the blocks determine the notes they generate, while the quads produce different musical flourishes depending on their size and position. Not only that, but the songs are genuinely good. I’m a huge musical snob and will instantly dismiss 90% of the the tracks on your average music game, but Chime‘s (admittedly pretty slim) line-up is great – aside from Moby’s frankly embarrassing contribution – with my enthusiasm being pointed particularly in the faces of Philip Glass, and Orbital’s Paul Hartnoll. Oh, and a guy from The Flaming Lips has a song in the game, too. Everyone always tells me I should like The Flaming Lips, but I really shouldn’t.

Right, so now that I’ve told you all that, why haven’t you bought Chime? Hmm?

Oh, wait. Maybe it’s because I forgot to mention that it costs less than a meal at McDonalds, and all the developers’ cut is going straight to charity. Yeah, you heard. They made this game for free. Please, if anyone could tell me what the hell else I’m meant to want from a £3.50ish video game, I’m all ears. Hell, you even get 50Gs just for buying the game, which is probably great news if you’re one of those people. In fact, the only reason Chime isn’t getting a 10, is because of Moby.

I hope you’re bloody happy with yourself, Moby.

9 out of 10
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