Monday, September 6, 2010

Tetris + Music + Portal + ?????? = PROFIT

This might be the fastest game review I've ever written for personal purposes. I literally purchased a game less than an hour ago, and I'm already starting to write about it. Furthermore, I'm going to attempt to finish up writing about it in under half an hour. Pics might come later tonight, but I'm determined to get a word in about this game pretty quickly.

But then again, where would my game reviews be without a pseudo-related tangent to kick them off? Apparently at PAX this past weekend, some more details about Portal 2 were finally dropped, namely, a release date. Portal 2 is, as of the time of the writing of this post, set to debut on February 9, 2011. So mark your calendars, but do it in pencil, because we all know that Valve doesn't exactly run on the same system of time as the rest of the world. (For full disclosure, my source for the date is this video showing a co-op mode demonstration, so here's hoping it's semi-legitimate.) [Edit: Apparently, the date has been out for a few weeks now. Whoops.]

Game review, then. Over the summer, a friend of mine introduced me to a NES gem called Rampart. The object of the game is to try to maintain as large of a kingdom as possible while destroying your opponents and defending against your enemies. While this probably sounds like every tower defense game out there, the main twist is that your kingdom is formed by a miniature game of Tetris. You have a limited amount of time to build and repair your castle walls in between rounds (oh who am I kidding, the build/repair stage is the round), and only areas completely surrounded by walls will count for your score and be usable in the next round.

From the first game I played with my friend, I was hooked. The gravity-less Tetris twist is really fun to play with, and the panic to try to close off a portion of walls before time runs out gives you an amazing rush. I'm honestly amazed that I had not heard of Rampart before, because it's truly the sort of game that's right up my alley.

Enter Chime. At first, I noticed that Chime was a music-based game (though not one where you can use your own music like other previously reviewed games), but then I noticed the Rampart-like gameplay. With all that and a pretty low price (of which a portion goes to charities), I jumped on the Purchase button like a hobo on a ham sandwich. (Unrelated, I've heard that expression used more times in the last week than probably the last ten years of my life.)

Rather than building walls around hollow courtyards, the goal of Chime is to use your stash of pentominoes (I think it was all pentominoes?) to build solid blocks (3x3 or larger) to claim territory. When a block is made, you have a limited amount of time to continue adding pentominoes around the outside to make it a larger block, adding to your score and your territory claimed. When the timer for a block runs out, it becomes inactive for a short bit.

Meanwhile, you've got some sort of music playing in the background. The tempo of the song determines the speed of the Beatline, which scrolls across the board from left to right. When it crosses an inactive block, it clears it, giving you a small time bonus and letting you build in that space again. Unused scraps of pentominoes "age" as the Beatline passes over it, and if left unused too long, will wipe the board clean of unused pieces. This helps to get rid of junk on the board, making it easier to build again, but it also kills off your combo bonus. Claiming the entire board unlocks a special bonus stage that... well, I don't know, I haven't gotten there yet, but there's a ton more points available for that.

On the downside, there are only six songs (thus, six levels) to play with. Each "song" isn't a strict song as much as they are loops that you can add different elements to, but they're still pretty good. Note: This is as far as I made it in the half hour I allotted myself. Dang it. And coming from such names as Philip Glass, Moby, and Jonathan Coulton (yes, it's that song... see, there was a Portal tie-in all along!), you know it'd have to be good stuff. Six songs might get repetitive, but you hardly notice it when you're caught up in the game.

For only five bucks (and since a portion of that goes to charity, I wouldn't expect any sales anytime soon), Chime is definitely worth the price, even with how little comes in the package. At the very least, it's a very fast-paced puzzle that satisfied my Rampart needs, and has a heck of a lot of replayability along with it. Chime definitely gets a seal of approval from this humble blogger.

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