Review for Chime (XBLA)

Familiar Tetris shapes are combined with world renowned music artists in this charming downloadable puzzler. Available on Xbox Live for just 400 Microsoft Points (around £3.50), Zoë Mode has teamed up with charity initiative OneBigGame to give more than sixty percent of proceedings to a worthwhile cause. Even with a few obvious flaws, it’s hard to knock a product with such good intentions.

Players fill a grid as quickly as possible by placing Tetris shapes together in ‘quads’ that are at least three squares wide and three squares tall. A bar races across the screen from left to right, slowly building the song with every new quad that it passes. Different shaped quads can produce different sounds, making it possible to remix each track as you play. The timer can be set at three, six or nine minutes, increasing the difficulty for those that find themselves sweeping through each level. For those that find themselves stuck trying to clear a particularly nasty nook or cranny, there’s also a ‘free mode’ which lets players complete the songs at a leisurely pace.

Chime adopts a very clean and simple visual approach, with a bright colour palette and minimal effects. Everything is set on a two dimensional playing field, making the entire package feel closer to an indie title than a full retail game. It could certainly do with some improvements, but like all retro styled puzzlers, once you get locked into the music and gameplay you’ll barely notice it anyway.

The five songs fit snugly into the genre of ambient electronica, a great match for Chime’s alternative artistic vision. It would be great to see a larger array of tracks taken from their discographies if a sequel is ever made. The current selection includes:

* Philip Glass – Brazil
* Moby – Ooh Yeah
* Paul Hartnoll – For Science
* Markus Schulz – Spilled Cranberries
* Fred Deakin (Lemon Jelly) – Disco Ghosts

The option to upload high scores to a global leaderboard offers some competitive value, but players will likely be fighting against themselves to nail the crucial 100% coverage. Some form of multiplayer or co-operative mode would have also enhanced the experience.

Any weaknesses that I’ve picked out are insignificant to the overbearingly positive experience found in Chime. The core gameplay mechanic is unique, simple and quickly addictive, making it easy to lose a quick half an hour before you head out of the house. OneBigGame has a fantastic vision and at such a low price, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t give it a try.

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