Friday, April 8, 2011

A Look at Games - Chime

It's been a while since my last look at games. Should write more of these. Really should. But I live under the fiction that I can write reviews of everything I play, and that most of those games are not relevant. Reality is, I am now some twenty games behind on my reviews, so it's not looking too good. I could perhaps give myself game design experience for writing reviews. Anyway, back to the point. Chime is finally available for the PlayStation 3.

So what is Chime? It's a puzzle game where the gameplay affects the background music. Remember Lumines? Same concept, but really different gameplay. What these games have in common is the beatline that erases complete blocks (called quads in Chime) from the board. However, in Chime, the beatline also 'plays' the blocks laid on the grid, creating sound effects to go with the music. The goal of the game is to fill the grid. Erasing a quad colors the grid filled underneath it. The player places blocks that are much like Tetris blocks, except these are made of five squares against Tetris's four, which allows more varied shapes. The trick in Chime is this: only a subset of all the available pieces can be used in a level. Better rethink that strategy!

Quads leave fragments. Fragments vanish after a few passes by the beatline, and when that happens, the player loses their score multiplier, which is a big loss. Building perfect quads avoids the problem as there are no fragments left over from the quad. Basically that is all there is to it. The gameplay is not as simple as, say, Lumines, but it is far from complex. Does it work? Hell yeah. Chime feels a lot more relaxed than Lumines. Then again, I'm not very good at it yet, so this will most likely change when I go from "recognize the possible quads" to "do the quads at crazy speed". I like the puzzle aspect of figuring out how to form perfect quads from sets of different blocks.

Chime has awesome atmosphere. The music component seems to work even better than it does in Lumines, which is an impressive achievement. Especially some of the songs are really relaxing, and the way the game is staged means they will be different on every go of the beatline. It's not a coincidence that the game states "Play music in Chime" as a description of selecting 'play' in the main menu. The game even has a scoreless mode for those who want to just enjoy the music and place some blocks at a leisurely pace to alter their experience.

In a way, Chime is a new way to experience music. Unlike band games that allow the player to imitate the music, Chime allows the player produce the music. It does so in a limited way to ensure that the result actually sounds good but nevertheless, the music becomes an interactive experience in a different manner. It also somewhat different from Lumines where player actions directly produce sounds (however, Lumines also has sounds when the beatline erases blocks, but they are not as varied as they are in Chime).

Point of this post? Well not much really, I just wanted to highlight this game as it is yet another really intense experience. Play it and you will hopefully learn, something. It's not an impossible idea to add similar ways of altering background music to tasks such as writing. A beatline goes over your text and plays the letters or something like that. It could be an interesting curiosity to try it, even with just one song. Make a song, decompose it to effects and layers, then tie playing of different layers and effects to events done during a task.

Just some food for thought. And I really needed to gain some exp today.

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