Sound Shapes lets you make gorgeous music, and you might not even know you're the one conducting it.
It's a platformer in which a sticky one-eyed blob rolls and leaps his way through tricky stages. But every time you grab a coin, a new note is added to the level's ever-evolving musical score.
The type of note depends on where you found the coin. Low-down cash become growling, bassy thuds, while airborne coins are replaced by hi-hats and electro-pop squeals.
It means that the music grows, from a flat tune to an orchestra of bells and bloops. The soundtrack reflects your skill, too: the more you go out of your way to nab coins, the more tuneful the music will be. And missed coins will result in discordant empty notes.
Hip to Be Square
The levels are split into albums, which are each produced by a duo of musician and visual artist. There's a clockwork office level by the creators of Sword & Sworcery, a curious mishmash of organic and industrial from I Am Robot and Proud, and a twitchy retro nostalgia-trip scored by deadmau5.
Beck's album - a noisy industrial wasteland - is the best at characterising the mishmash of audio and visual. The singer's lyrics and wails become platforms, while his grungy guitar riffs are transformed into jittery enemy missiles. For me, playing his first level made the whole concept really click.
But at other times, that magic fades away. Slip off your headphones and it feels like you've disconnected from the matrix. You realise that you've been playing a rather standard indie platformer this whole time - just one with an utterly killer soundtrack.
It's a little too easy, your character can be stodgy to control, and the checkpoints are way too generous. And while choreographed enemies move to the rhythm of the level, they never require the pinpoint timing of Beat Sneak Bandit to avoid. In the end, it's more about the music than the game.
Circle of Life
Once you've finished all the levels (and balked at the painfully difficult Hell Mode), you might want to try your hand at building your own stage. You use all the platforms, enemies, and notes from the main game, and can build quite large and complicated levels.
The controls can be tricky - especially as moving, resizing, and rotating is all done with the Vita's slightly awkward rear touch-panel.
Your levels are added to a monster collection of handmade stages, which you can access through the community tab. It's going to take some time to see if any competent creators appear. Right now, at least, the popular level list is crowded with stages that mimic songs from Zelda and Kingdom Hearts.
Bizarre Love Triangle
Taken as an audio-visual experience, Sound Shapes is something to behold. It's trippy and unique, and playing it feels like bouncing around the brains of Beck and deadmau5. But as a game, with its plain platforming and scant amount of content, it sadly leaves something to be desired.