At first glance Chime Sharp looks like a free-roaming variation of Tetris. You put pieces together in the hopes of gaining combos and the like. However, I soon realized that the only thing Chime Sharp had in common with Tetris were its blocks. Everything else about it screamed with puzzling originality.
A sequel to 2010's Chime, Zoë Mode's latest in the series has players attempt to create 3x3 blocks known as Chimes. The more you build off the Chimes, the higher your score will be once the combo reaches its end. These combos can then trigger musical samples to help bring the current song playing fuller into life. Your main objective is to stamp out every quadrant of the level, thereby bringing the entirety of the song blaring through your speakers.
First things first: before you dive into a level, be sure to read the instructions. Since I never played the first game, I tackled the levels made available as if I was playing...well, you read the first paragraph of this review. Once I corrected myself, that's when I figured out how to combat these songs with all my mental might. Sure enough, there's a solid strategy to playing Chime Sharp, as simply placing blocks wherever will lead you to never unlocking the rest of the sixteen songs featured in the game.
And boy, did they grab some talented musicians for this game! The likes of CHVRCHES, Magic Sword, Kavinsky, and Haiku Salut all put their own personality to their own respective levels, in the same way Beck and deadmau5 did for Queasy Games' Sound Shapes. Even though they have similar layouts (save for a few blocked areas placed here and there), you can feel each level being carefully tooled to mesh perfectly with the music.
However, there can often be a strange contradiction to some of the songs featured in the game to how intense these levels can be. Some of the more soothing tracks can keep you feeling relaxed, a real contradiction to having to rush through some areas to get the combo meter up. This could all be intention as a means to throw you off your game, in a similar fashion to what Sega's Hatsune Miku series does with their way of flashing beautiful visuals to distract you from hitting the right button.
Control-wise, I found myself using the D-pad more often to maneuver my pieces around, as the left joystick was a little bit too sensitive. Often I used the stick to move my blocks, only for them to be placed above the spot I wanted as I pressed the A button. It was kinda irksome, which is why I highly recommend going old-school and using the D-pad to get moving properly.
The better you are at Chime Sharp, the better you will be at unlocking the rest of the modes of the game. Sharp Mode rids that pesky timer, but you'll have to use certain pieces to get the Chimes going. Strike Mode is a frantic beast, giving you only 90 seconds to fill up as much of the board as possible. Challenge Mode is exactly like the regular game, only with some minor set instructions to complete each stage. With that being said, be prepared to spend hours unlocking each of these modes, as the game runs in the high difficulty range.
While there's a lot to like about Chime Sharp, it feels like an overlooked error that there's no multiplayer mode to be found in this game. Considering the puzzling aspects and the race against time in Normal mode, it would seem fitting that a way to play against others should be there. Sadly, that is not the case, and what could've been a great way to pit gamers against one another is but a missed opportunity.
- Fun, addictive gameplay
- Fantastic soundtrack
- Great assortment of modes
- Lacks multiplayer
- Joystick controls a little wonky
Chime Sharp is a surprisingly well-made sequel to a musical cult classic. Although a multiplayer mode would've been nice, what is offered here is both satisfying and audibly soothing to the ears. Definitely give this blocky puzzler a spin whenever you can.
Promotional consideration provided by Vaiva Vitkute of Plan of Attack. Reviewed on the Xbox One.