Jonathan Mak is serious about making video games. Just talk to him for a few minutes and you’ll literally envision his passion and tenacity to learn and improve. Back in 2007, Mak created an award-winning game called Everyday Shooter (through his development company Queasy Games), a PlayStation 3/PC music shooting hybrid that won much acclaim for its innovative design and tight game mechanics. Since then he has worked on ten game prototypes with musician Shaw-Han Liem (who goes by the alias I am Robot and Proud) in Toronto, but unfortunately none of them have worked the way that Mak wanted them to. There are many developers out there who strive for excellence, but very few create what Mak creates: dreams, aspirations, and the heady sensation of floating on air.
Since then, Mak and Liem have been working diligently on their latest project, Sound Shapes. Releasing as a launch title for the upcoming PlayStation Vita, Sound Shapes is an incarnation of Mak’s past ideas: music acts like an element in the game — every action you take creates music. Sound Shapes does this in a very rewarding and almost nostalgic way. The warm electricity of the music culminates in every pore, and every note creates an ever-growing story. A meditation on your every want or desire – a story about you.
The market level. Your local Longo’s never looked like this, sucka!
Mak went over the basics with me: you play as a little blob that runs, jumps and sticks to practically anything you can imagine. Navigating across the game’s many 2D obstacles is anything but a hassle; in fact it’s pure magic. Everything the blob touches creates sound (which continues on repeat); from subtle patters to visceral microbeats. As you unlock more and more sounds throughout each stage, an orchestra of sounds blends into that particular stage’s song. Each song is distinct and otherworldly and adds a remarkable sense of purpose to our unique journey.
Next up was the game’s ridiculously thorough level/music creation editor. Liem showed me how the editor used the Vita’s front screen for creating the sounds and obstacles, the back screen for editing shape locations and sizes; he also demonstrated how to use several of the game’s instrumental filters. While Liem guided me through the process behind making your very own level, I couldn’t help but imagine the concept being employed at a live music show: where the musician creates stages on an overhead projector as music slowly trickles through the hills, bushes and clouds; an audio-visual experience.
The running level. I don’t see Ahnold anywhere around here.
These custom-made levels will be able to be shared with friends online, and you will even be able to release packs of custom levels as “albums”, though very few details have been solidified just yet. Launching early next year, the PlayStation Vita is quickly becoming a must-buy. Games like Sound Shapes ignite our passion and creativity; they let us see the delicate nuances of even the most insignificant things and make them beautiful. Relax under the electric hum and let go.