Chime Review

   22/02/2010 at 16:22       Phil May       9 COMMENTS. - Score 4/5
 - Chime, Xbox 360, Zoe Mode, Xbox Live Arcade, OneBigGame
Somewhere, in an alternate universe, Guitar Hero and Rock Band never happened. Frequency and Amplitude sold so well that the games went on to spawn several other sequels, before the music game genre slowly retired, mellowed gracefully in its old age, satisfied that it had provided its best.

In our harsh reality, huge underground caverns of fossil fuels are given over to the production of rubbish plastic musical instruments, so a seemingly ever-hungry music game buying public can assuage their unending thirst for tapping plastic buttons methodically to background tunes.

It shouldn't be this way. It should be Chime's way.

Chime, from Brighton studio Zoe Mode, offers an alternative to the usual rhythm-based music game. Suffusing the works of six ethereal Electronica pioneers with a relaxing puzzle game might not sound the most exciting project on the planet, but it's not really designed to be. For 400 points you get a subtle and rather beautiful game that's perfect for those calm moments between beheading zombies in a listless uber-violent shooter or careering around a track with your tyres on fire in a tedious racing game.

Looking a lot like Sega's Lumines at first glance, Chime is actually the very opposite. Rather than clearing a densely populated grid filled with random block-based shapes, Chime invites you to fill as much space as possible with them, covering the most territory in the quickest amount of time.

Separated into several game modes, basic Chime gameplay gives you three, six or nine minutes to cover as much of the blank gridspace as possible. A constantly cycling tone bar moves from left to right on the screen, and if you've created any quads with your blocks (basic quads measure 3 blocks by 3 but bigger ones net more points), a delicious snippet of music plays to compliment the game's thrumming backbeats.

Artists such as Moby, Philip Glass and Markus Schulz have freely donated some of their tunes to the project. Sales of Chime go towards the OneBigGame charitable foundation, supporting charities like Save the Children and Starlight. So you can feel good about yourself while gaming, for once.

Like all successful puzzlers, Chime captures the essence of simple gaming methodologies meshed with slick presentation, smooth visuals and of course the all important soundtrack and spot effects.

In Free Mode the game even feels a little like a music sequencer, allowing you to drop shapes into the empty gridspace to punctuate the game's various songs with your own sound arrangements.

Naturally though, the timed modes are probably where you'll spend most of your gametime and the whole tone and feel of the game can alter from fast freneticism in three minute mode to something a little more laid back and placid in nine minute mode.

The Chime team have been coy about a follow-up or even downloadable content, but harking back to the beginning of this review and the phenomenon of people paying premium prices for what are essentially tappity-tap karaoke tracks for their chosen rhythm games, it surely wouldn't be that hard to sell people extra tracks or content for something like Chime.

It's reasonably priced, and offers the perfect antidote to the stresses and strains of modern gaming. A deliciously blessed out slice of aural pleasure you just happen to need your thumbs for as well as your ears.

The game's Introductory Tutorial Trailer from Zoe Mode Studios

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