Review: Chime Sharp

By Shamus Posted Monday Jul 18, 2016

Filed under: Game Reviews 23 comments

You might remember that back when I was still doing comics for The Escapist, I was really, REALLY into Chime, a music / puzzle game from 2010. It’s perhaps the only game where I’ve ever posted top scores on a worldwide leaderboard. I’m not saying this to peacock about being good at the game, I’m saying this so you can understand just how obsessed I was with this thing. I usually played it until I was forced to take a break due to carpal aching.

It’s been six years, but we finally have a sequel. It was a long wait, but the sequel vastly improves on what was already an exquisite game.

Link (YouTube)

The Original Chime

(To be clear, while I’m going to describe Chime here, all the screenshots in this review are for the sequel.)

If you missed the original, it works something like this: You’re given pentominoesBasically “Tetris pieces”, except made out of five blocks instead of four. to place on a grid. You fit them together as best you can. As you form rectangles, they will vanish and you’ll be awarded points based on surface area. Since you’re building rectangles out of irregular shapes, you’ll frequently have some leftover fragments scattered around once the rectangle is removed. There’s a beatline passing over the grid in time to the music. Every time the beatline hits one of these fragments, the fragment decays. If it decays completely, then it vanishes and you lose your current score multiplier. The only way to prevent this is to clean up the fragments by incorporating them into more rectangles, which will leave behind more fragments to clean up, etc.

Building a rectangle would “claim” that area of the grid and give you extra time. To avoid running out, you needed to constantly build new rectangles over virgin territory.

The white piece is about to expire. When the beatline hits it in a few seconds, it will vanish and I'll be penalized. In timed mode, you lose your multiplier. In Sharp Mode (pictured) you lose one of your 10 hitpoints, shown at the top.
The white piece is about to expire. When the beatline hits it in a few seconds, it will vanish and I'll be penalized. In timed mode, you lose your multiplier. In Sharp Mode (pictured) you lose one of your 10 hitpoints, shown at the top.

The original game had six songs. Each song had a unique board shape, a slightly different pace, and a different collection of pentominoes to work with. As you filled in the board, the music would progress to a new bit. The pieces and rectangles all make sounds in tune with the music to keep the whole thing groovy and holistic. The only reason I lost interest in the game is that there were only so many dozen hours I could listen to the same few songs.

Chime was a game that was split between two opposing goals. You needed to push into new areas in order to feed the clock, but if you wanted to keep your score multiplier up, then you needed to clean up all the bits you left behind. Which way do you go? Do you fill the board as fast as possible, or keep the board as clean as possible?

I loved the game, but I loved one half of it a lot more than the other half.

Chime Sharp

Chime Sharp has a new graphical style where the shapes are 3D. I usually revert to the old 2D mode, since I find I make a lot of mis-clicks in 3D.
Chime Sharp has a new graphical style where the shapes are 3D. I usually revert to the old 2D mode, since I find I make a lot of mis-clicks in 3D.

Chime Sharp resolves this conflict by spinning the two goals out into two distinct game modes. In a Standard timed game you’re working to cover the board, and in the new Sharp Mode you’re working to build perfect rectangles from imperfect shapes. One is a game of speed and the other a game of strategy and planning ahead.

Sharp Mode is the Chime I always wanted. It’s the puzzle half of the original game, stripped of the annoying “Game Over” timer so that the player can focus on perfection over speed. You’re still under time pressure (the fragments still decay as the music plays) but now the pressure comes from avoiding mistakes rather than moving quickly. It’s delicious fun and I love it.

Chime Sharp has fifteen total tracks. As of this writing I’ve unlocked two-thirds of them, and they’re all solid. Personally I haven’t found any of them as intoxicating as For Silence by Paul Hartnoll (my favorite track from the original game) but then none of them are as irritating as Brazil by Philip Glass. Obviously tastes will vary, but since Chime Sharp has more than double the number of tracks of the original, you’re bound to find something that tickles your particular fancy.

My one gripe with the game is that with the new Chime Sharp mode, I really don’t care about timed mode anymore. But you need to play timed mode to unlock a new track, and then play timed mode on the new track to unlock Sharp mode for that track. Timed mode isn’t the pushover it used to be, either. I’m sort of handicapped by the fact that I keep getting distracted and fall back into OCD “cleanup” mode instead of grabbing territory like you’re supposed to. It’s like a version of Tetris where you’re not supposed to complete lines. Old habits die hard, particularly when you’re half-hypnotized and running on muscle memory. I imagine this won’t be a problem for normal players that have better control over their higher brain functions.

Fifteen tracks.
Fifteen tracks.

That minor complaint aside, this thing is a joy to play. So it has more than double the content of the original, more game modes, and a bunch of new visual flourishes. If that’s not enough to sell you on the game, it also supports user-generated songs. I’m seriously considering adapting one of my own tracks and releasing it as a custom level.

If you liked the original Chime, then get it. Just get it. The only reason not to get it is that it costs money and we live in a world of finite resources and time.

If you didn’t like or play the original, then let me temper my recommendation by saying this game is best enjoyed by people with an appetite for electronic music. If you’re more of a fan of (say) bluegrass or (I dunno) Gregorian Chants, then this might not be your thing. Watch the trailer and see if you’ll enjoy listening to that while fitting shapes together.

Chime Sharp releases on July 19 (tomorrow, as of this writing) on Steam.



[1] Basically “Tetris pieces”, except made out of five blocks instead of four.

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23 thoughts on “Review: Chime Sharp

  1. NoneCallMeTim says:

    Am disappointed the review didn’t devolve into chime chime chime chimechimechime…

    1. LCF says:

      I expected a re-run from the Escapist joke too, but it seems there are higher standards than mine.
      For Silence is beautiful.

    2. methermeneus says:

      Chime chime chime, see what’s become of me,
      While I look for rectangle possibilities…

      1. methermeneus says:

        You know, now that I think of it, “A Hazy Shade of Winter” by Simon and Garfunkel is precisely the wrong kind of song for this sort of game, but the cover by The Bangles might work pretty well.

  2. This review reminded me of two things:

    1. I need to play more Audiosurf 2, as I haven’t in ages.

    2. I am Setsuna releases tomorrow as well and hopefully won’t suck.

    1. Gothictwist says:

      I was terribly disappointed clicking your link to no.2 and finding it was not the citrus based I am bread Dlc we have all been praying for.

  3. Galad says:

    A tweet from Shamus got me playing Distance. Sure, I might have only 3 hours to it currently, but it’s a definite thumbs up. I might check this out at some point too.

    On a much more serious note, would any fans of Gregorian chants step up and recommend me tracks to listen to in this genre?

    1. Bubble181 says:

      Depends…Do you want *real* Gregorian chants, or just general medieval sounding choir song things? Because “Gregorian” is really a fairly small subset of what most people *label* as “Gregorian”. For one thing, any addition of organ makes it non-Gregorian, as does any singing in polyphony.

      1. Galad says:

        I’d appreciate both ‘real’ chants, as you define them, and music with organ.

        1. Pete_Volmen says:

          Not exactly/purely chanting, and especially not gregorian (because polyphonic, which, as Bubble181 mentioned was considered not done), but one particular evolution always captivated me.
          Miserere, Written by allegri. This performance is by The Sixteen, but the Tallis Scholars also have a fantastic rendition. The high C always sends shivers down my spine.

          Oh, and don’t look up the lyrics. They’re dreadful. Common for the time, unfortunately.

    2. LCF says:

      Gregorian – the Unforgiven

      If you like general-purpose medieval/antiquity/electronic music, I can recommand Faun, Qntal, Helium Vola, Omnia, the Mediaeval Baebes, Trobar de Morte, Ordo Funebris and Garmarna off of the top of my head.

      1. Galad says:

        Thank you very much for your plentiful recommendations :)

        1. LCF says:

          Glad to be of help!

  4. Perceptiveman says:

    Enjoyed the heck out of the original.

    Backed the Kickstarter for this.

    Will be playing.

  5. Corsair says:

    No Gregorian Chants? Well, so much for that, if I can’t do pseudo-Tetris while listening to

    There’s just no point.

  6. Sydney says:

    I’m a little disappointed it doesn’t have the option of playing off your own playlist. If Chime could do that, I think I might never do anything else.

  7. arthurbu says:

    I remember you talking about the first game. I’m sold on this one because that last image implies it’s got CHVRCHES, Shirobon, Chipzel, Magic Sword and more. Looks like a super solid tracklist!

    Thanks for the heads up.

  8. Ninety-Three says:

    So, obvious question. How’d you get a copy of this game before it’s out? Does your position as Internet Pundit get you access to a steady stream of preview copies?

    1. Shamus says:

      I’m offered review copies of games on a regular basis, but 95% of the time it’s for games that are outside of my area of interest. And it’s never AAA games. Just indies and mid-tier stuff.

    2. Taellosse says:

      My guess is the developer gave him a review key, based on his enthusiasm for the prior game.

  9. Kelerak says:

    Magic Sword is in the soundtrack. I’m in.

  10. MaxEd says:

    I wish someone made games for people who love bluegrass :( Or maybe 50’s rockabilly, or acoustic blues. But no, game developers ignore all genres I like and stuff all games with electronic music, metal or orchestrated pseudo-classical numbers (I hate music in all fantasy RPGs and turn it off immediately). Only Bioshock Infinite gave me some joy with retro numbers here and there – it was a really nice touch! But still… No games with bluegrass :(

  11. DrMcCoy says:

    I’m usually more into metal (doom and stoner, for the most part, but not exclusively), but I do like electronica when it’s either chiptunes or more experimental. I’m a fan of experimental subgenres in general, too.

    From your two examples above, I really quite like Brazil, while I find For Silence insufferably grating. :)

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