In this puzzle game, the soundtrack is much more than just background noise.
Games have never been so willing to accommodate our daily lives just to ensure we play them. The offshoot of this, of course, is that rare are the titles daring enough to state their terms from the word go and trust that we won’t abandon them. Chime, with its sensory assault, is one such game.
Indeed, refusing to bend to the will of the player isn’t the only risk Chime takes. From the get-go, it would be especially easy for anyone not willing to invest the time and energy the game needs to mark this off as just another block puzzler.
With a focus on music, the similarities with the likes of Lumines are obvious, but Chime goes beyond using its soundtrack as mere decoration. Here, the music tinkering along in the background is just as important as the crisp, functional visuals, layering play by keeping you on track with your progress from beginning to end. That’s not to mention that, personal taste aside, such tinkering probably serves up some of the best, most atmospheric soundtrack you’re ever likely to hear in a game.
Gameplay-wise, Chime is a question of shape matching to hit those sweet notes. Playing out on what is essentially a series of massive grids, you have to piece together a variety of shapes to form 3×3 blocks or larger to clear them from the board. Ultimately, the goal is to clear these shapes – or ‘quads’, as they’re known – from each and every part of the grid, though hitting 50 percent is enough to unlock the following stage.
But this is a far harder task to master than it might sound. Though all options are open to you – you can turn each shape 90 degrees a time by right clicking on the mouse, before placing it with a left click – the sheer variety of shapes on offer means knowing just where to place them is something that only comes with experience.
For example, while five-square long rectangles and crosses are fairly easy to slot in here and there, finding places for shapes than bend around, or zigzag up and down is not so straightforward – all too often you’ll leave gaps, making filling those spaces as you play on more and more difficult. And it’s managing to block together the various shapes in the virgin areas – parts of map where no quads have yet been cleared – that dominates most of your time.
Building up an impressive score almost comes naturally (multipliers on offer if you build up a chain of quads), but actually making sure you cover half of the board – or, in fact, 100 percent if you fancy an extra challenge – is a battle.
It’s especially easy to get trapped in one section of the map, gleefully slotting in shapes here and there while whole other portions are littered with awkward odds and ends that are far harder to tie up in quads, making any clean sweep of the board a question of perseverance.
Just how close you are to such perfection, however, is illustrated by the music. Each track – with the likes of Moby and blank featured – is broken down into parts, certain shapes triggering extra vocals or sounds to the track as it plays. It can also change the mood entirely, seemingly shifting gear as you enter a new phase of play.
It’s not an exaggeration to suggest that it really is an intrinsic part of what Chime as a package, adding to – rather than merely complimenting – your connection with the game.
Indeed, without the extra musical layer, Chime could so easily have become a perfectly adequate, yet creatively stagnant, puzzler. With it, Zoë Mode has served up something genuinely progressive that entertains as much as it absorbs and, most importantly, proves that there are still games worth putting day to day life aside for.