The original Chime snuck in during the height of the Xbox LIVE Arcade fold for the Xbox 360, gaining a fan following thanks to a solid soundtrack and unique charity approach. Evidently, a number of those fans have stuck around to push a new version through crowdfunding and out of early access on Steam. Those fans should remain pleased about Chime Sharp, as it takes what makes the core gameplay enjoyable and turns it up just a notch.
While it is easy to compare Chime to Lumines, there are quite a few differences between the two. While both feature a bar that clears puzzle pieces from the board in a tempo that matches the music, Chime focuses much more on covering the width of a playfield, and this is done under the pressure of a time limit in the standard mode. Scoring multipliers hinge on the player being able to build on top of basic quad shapes before the clear bar wipes them away, while progression relies much more on clearing these pieces away on as much of the overall board as possible.
Chime Sharp works wonderfully as a minimalist game, but this carries over into a large lack of explanation on how to play. Fortunately, it really isn’t difficult to figure out, and the developer has posted additional information in the Steam community to fill in any cracks.
This sequel still features tracks from notable artists, and each selectable song features different playfield layouts and puzzle pieces to keep things fresh. Figuring out which pieces stack together most efficiently is key, and Chime Sharp maintains the musical and graphical progression intact, so players are rewarded with more sensual feedback as they progress through the track.
Chime Sharp presents players with multiple game modes for each track, but the timed game modes make the gameplay intense as players are forced to keep up with playfield progress or else they will be booted from the game at certain intervals of the song. Reaching percentage landmarks is also how players unlock more content for the game, including more songs to play and additional game modes for each song. The developer actually scaled back the percentage required to unlock songs, which makes the task easier for the casual player to manage and enjoy the game’s music, but many of the other functions will require the player to buckle down and gain some mastery of the mechanics.
As said earlier, the presentation overall is a bit minimal at times, but this is a positive as it really kicks in when the player finds their groove during gameplay. The game makes smart use of colors that really pop from the screen, especially as the pace of progression during a song picks up. The visuals create a clean-looking game that makes managing the pieces easy while providing suitable feedback when the player triggers the puzzle pieces matching.
Additionally, while it may sound odd, the game’s audio also kicks in where it counts. Clearing away the playfield unveils more of each song, making it necessary to improve your skills to hear more from artists such as Steve Reich, Chisel, Magic Sword and Symbion Project. The game’s audio primarily revolves around listening to music, and, once again, it all works very well.
The game comes together with tight controls using a gamepad, but the game also supports mouse and keyboard controls. Players can move pieces, rotate them and then place them – very simple controls to grasp, leaving the mastery more to obtaining high scores and clear percentages.
The game came out of early access roughly a month ago, and recent updates have removed some of the tedium of unlocking content. While the update to lower the clear percentage to unlock songs from 90 percent down to 40 reduces replayability a sliver, I think it was the right call to allow players an easier avenue to explore the tunes the game offers.
Players still have an uphill climb in mastering the pieces available on each song, toppling scores, unlocking game modes and uncovering other secrets. After a few tries, most players should be able to manage 60 percent scores, which unlocks the Sharp mode for that level, giving players a mode where they can slow down and avoid wasted moves. Chime Sharp might have some ambiguity that will detour new players, but those who give it time and dig into the content will find a lot to love. After clearing a few learning curves, the game serves up suitable challenges and has fantastic visuals and sounds on top of that.
* Review copy provided by the development team or publisher