Zoe Mode is collectively grinning from ear to ear about the success of Chime, its indie puzzle game that was released on Xbox Live Arcade last year. In some ways, the attention was unexpected - it was a title created using XNA technology purely for the One Big Game charity. But the simple, addictive, interactive music experience it provided helped spread the word among Xbox 360 players worldwide, which is not so surprising.
Now, the modest Brighton studio is treating Chime
as a breakthrough product. Its track history has included the more casual Singstar
and EyeToy Play
games, and although it saw some cult success in PSP puzzler Crush
it’s the broad acceptance of Chime
that has renewed the developer’s faith in experimenting with new ideas and taking risks.
So here we are a year later with what Zoe Mode calls the “definitive version” - Chime Super Deluxe
on the PlayStation Network. Rewritten from the ground up, sporting a new updated look and rocking a new multiplayer mode, getting to grips with this new edition provides an experience that’s even more enchanting than the original.
The reason I use the phrase ‘get to grips’ is because while a lot of things have stayed the same, plenty of game mechanics have been added or re-jigged in order to provide more of a challenge to those who have aced the XBLA version.
For the uninitiated, Chime
is played by laying down Tetris
-style blocks against a grid to create ‘quads’ - blocks of 4x4 squares or larger. A bar swoops past the grid constantly and plays notes from laid blocks with each pass, with quads becoming embedded into the grid and forming a part of the music.
Leftover pieces get played as additional samples on top of your custom remix, but you have a limited time to build quads around them before they disappear. If you lose one stray block, you can say goodbye to your entire multiplier, so to get a high score you need to stay focused and in the zone.
At its core, Super Deluxe
plays exactly the same as the original in this regard. You’re still trying to reach a 100% completion rate on the grid by building quads. But Zoe Mode has introduced perfect quads, which involve creating a ‘clean’ block of musical squares without having any leftover pieces.
Each level now contains five different grids, which rotate whenever you reach a 100% completion rate. The music drops back a little whenever you move onto the next grid, but not so much that it kills your mesmerised state. And of course, with new types of grids and a stricter time limit, veterans are going to be under pressure to get as many points out of their game as possible.
There’s also a bigger emphasis on building bigger quads horizontally as well as vertically this time around, with more points being awarded for those who don’t simply waterfall a quad from top to bottom.
Zoe Mode mentioned that the multipliers are in fact capped in Super Deluxe
as well, purely because of the inclusion of perfect quads - it turned out that during testing, some players were able to stack multipliers on top of one another, causing infinite scores to happen.
The music is just as important as the puzzle aspects of Chime
, and I was given a large range of different genres to play around with in my playtest. Famous remixers Plaid have created a track or two for Super Deluxe
, and it’s a great dance hall anthem that reaches a euphoric climax once you reach the 90% side of things. There’s a bit of ambient electronica in there too with Nathan McCree’s Machine Dream
and even classical music with Joe Hogan’s Sympathy
My favourites however had to be Looping Song
by prolific beatboxer Shlomo - with the slow build up of vibrato percussion leading to a great appreciation for the artist - and Play With You
by Sabrepulse, which is retro 8-bit chiptune music that makes you happy you were born on this earth. Seriously, I love that track.
The multiplayer mode is a collaborative work between Zoe Mode and the One Big Game charity as well. According to the developer, it offered its XNA code for Chime
to a group of charity students for study purposes, and what came back was the seeds for co-op and competitive modes for the game. Using that as a jumping point, Super Deluxe
has options for friends to team up and 100% grids together, or to fight for the most control of a grid under a certain time limit.
I played a few rounds of the latter, and found myself gleefully ‘stealing’ other players quads by filling in over 50% of them with my own pieces. With four players frantically trying to make their own quads and explore to other areas to harvest their opponents’ it makes for a rather hilarious time.
Plenty of reasons to look forward to this PSN exclusive then, plus an added charity incentive from Zoe Mode - even though it is self-publishing Chime Super Deluxe
, it is honouring its past success and donating a certain amount of money from game sales to the One Big Game charity once more. If you’re into chilled out audio-visual experiences, be sure to keep an eye on this one - it’s given me an experience I’ve not felt since Rez