Chime

Multi-Format Review (360 Tested)

Philanthropic charity initiative OneBigGame makes its debut on XBLA with Chime, a music and puzzle fusion that melds equal parts Lumines and Tetris into a joyous bundle priced at 400 MS Points. All of the proceeds from XBLA sales will be handed over directly to a select band of worthy causes, and if critical endorsement is the only thing holding you back, go forth and purchase right now. Chime holds as much value in play as it does in soothing the soul.

Whilst developer Zoe Mode’s design wears its heart on its sleeve by brazenly plundering elements of the franchises listed above, the resulting concoction turns out to be a real treat, differentiating itself with a slower pace and constructive rather than frantic nature.

Basic play involves placing Tetris-style shapes into gridded patterns on a range of differing game boards, with the most promonent aim being to create quads: rectangles or squares of a size determined by the player. As each new quad is created, a visual timer begins to fill slowly and eventually expires, stamping the coloured block into the background grid. Quickly adding another row to your quad will reset its individual timer, and building these up increases your score.

Adding further complexity, as your quads are stamped onto the background they disappear from the fore, leaving the space they used to occupy accessible again. The amount of filled background grid determines your completion percentage, which in turn adds a bonus score to multipliers generated by having multiple quads in-play at the same time. With me thus far? It’s far easier in practice.

The goals then, are two-fold: gain as high a completion percentage as you can by filling in as much of the grid as possible; and to keep multiple quads in play to increase your score. Leftover blocks from any non-rectangular shapes serve as ticking time bombs, and when not combined into a new quad will eventually expire, taking the current score multiplier with them. Juggling multiple quads is undoubtedly the ticket to the upper echelons of the leaderboards, but the superb achievement list prompts further experimentation in devilishly tough directions.

As for the musical influence, a Lumines-style vertical bar sweeps horizontally over the playfield in time with the current tune, creating different melodies whenever it crosses a quad or stray block. The five different stages comprise of various new-age and dance tunes from luminaries such as Moby, Phillip Glass and Orbital, each of them jammed with layered tracks to explore in your own design. Quads of various shapes and sizes trigger different samples when placed at different locations, with each stage building to a suitable high as your score rockets upwards.

Indeed, Chime could be argued to be at its best when played as a pseudo-sequencer rather than a videogame. Kicking back with a decent pair of headphones and experimenting with block placement in free-play is reason enough for it to exist; the structure and time limits of other modes suddenly seem far too restrictive.

But for all the positivity, there are a few too many rough edges on display for Chime to be accepted into the pantheons of music game classics. A few noticable audio loop problems pull you out of the experience on occasion, and whilst the visuals are functional, they barely rise above the middling standards of lower-tier XBLA releases.

Don’t let that hold you back though. If you have an uninterruped hour to spare and some points sitting in your account, Chime is well worth your time and proves a fantastic start to the OneBigGame initiative.

8...out of 10

About Emmanuel Brown

Professional enthusiast, videogame "journalist" and all-round spectacular sofa dweller.