April 3, 2011
As soon as you boot the game up, you'll notice that Chime exudes a certain sense of tranquillity. The menu music paints a perfect picture of what's to come, a rather relaxing puzzle game that even gives you some creative freedom.
The core experience revolves around Time Mode, where you are in a race against the clock to fill up a specified area with colour. This area changes depending on which song you've chosen and each presents its own unique challenge. To start off with though, you'll just have a very basic rectangular shape, with no awkward edges or spaces.
To fill the area up, you have to place blocks. These blocks must then be combined together to create squares and rectangles, which can be amended on the fly by placing more blocks down. Once you've run out of moves and can't expand it any further, the created object then disappears, and the space it occupied is then coloured in. It's a rather neat system actually, as it makes you think methodically about combinations, while then promoting speed to keep the combination going.
Unless you make a perfect quad, which can be done by forming a shape with no outside pieces, you'll have remnants left over. What this means, is that when the created object disappears, you'll have odd shapes left, which were placed, but couldn't be used to either create or expand the object. In a rather genius move, these actually then have very strong purpose in the overall mechanic. Of course, they can be used to create shapes, but they are directly tied in with your score multiplier.
In order to actively get you thinking, the game makes it very worth your while to use these remnants to create shapes. There's an overall "line" which makes passes across your various pieces, and for each pass this makes, remnants will get weaker and weaker. Eventually they will disappear and when this happens, you lose your entire multiplayer bonus. In a rather harsh move though, the developers made it so that if you lose one remnant, you lose them all. So naturally, the more remnants you have, the more difficult it is to maintain your combo.
It might seem like a great idea to make a huge shape that stretches the entire area, but at the same time, you'll probably create a ton of remnants by doing so, remnants which then need to be actively used to create more shapes in order to keep the multiplier from disappearing.
What makes Chime rather special though, is how it gives you a creative role in the direction of the music. The tracks will gradually develop dynamically as you cover more of the area, but placing blocks down will also create unique variations. Each block creates a "chime", which differs depending on the type of music in the background, and each block is associated with a different "chime". Combining blocks creates more variations, and creating quads makes even more. The possibilities are really limitless, and when you're doing with the Timed Mode, the game offers Free Mode, where you can just mess around to your heart's content.
One of the problems with Chime though, is that despite this, it does feel a bit limited with its premise. Actually playing through each track on Timed Mode, and attaining the coverage required to unlock the next one, won't take all that long. Once you've done this, you'll probably find a couple of tracks you really like, and you'll play those on Free Mode for a while. It's likely that you may get tired of hearing the tracks after a while though and when that happens, the game loses its appeal rather quickly.
The addition of the new Versus Modes help with this though, but they're only available via local unfortunately, there's no online play. Here, you can either team-up with a friend to try and make different shapes co-operatively, or you can compete directly against a friend to see who can get the best score. It mixes things up, but again, it's still the same experience and you'll likely have to both agree with the music choices.
To compliment the great sound design, Chime features some fairly standard visuals. It's essentially a big grid, with small squares, and you place the blocks on the grid - it's like a modern day Tetris, in terms of presentation. Things do light up a bit once the action starts to get going, but it's actually a case of simpler is better. If the developers had tried to do more with it, it would have probably become a distraction.
Chime: Super Deluxe is a rather innovative take on the puzzle genre, effectively become a music creation tool at the same time. There's plenty of fun to be had here, although if you start getting a bit tired of the music the game will lose its appeal rather quickly. It'll probably take a while for that to happen though, and the multiplayer modes help to give Super Deluxe some extra legs. Chime is well worth picking up.