You might remember the original Chime if you were playing games back around 2010. It offered a simple but intuitive twist on a fairly standard puzzle game, that took different shapes and boards and added an evolving musical element to each session. It’s been about six years since the original launched but Chime is back again this month with its sequel, Chime Sharp. After being in early access on Steam for nearly a year now, the finished product has finally released on PC this week.
The object of the game in Chime is to fill up boards of different sizes with varying shapes that snap together, without leaving empty spaces between them. You do this by creating an initial 3×3 shape with the pieces they give you, and then you’re given a few seconds to keep adding on to that initial shape to increase your score. The more of these shapes you create, the higher your score multiplier goes and the more points you earn, but you’re only given a limited amount of time to complete each level.
Right out of the figurative box, Chime Sharp looks, sounds, and feels like a complete evolution from the first game. The visuals have been modernised and take on a life of their own. The colors are vibrant, the animations when pieces lock together are slick, and everything moves in a smooth and satisfying way. The understated sound effects fit well with the theme of the game, and do nothing to take away from some of the best music you’ll find in a video game today.
The original Chime was known for its short but effective musical score, as it utilized the likes of Orbital, Moby, and even the Still Alive song from Portal. Chime Sharp takes it to another level. With artists such as Magic Sword, Chvrches, and Kavisnky onboard, there isn’t a single dull level thanks to the 15 different tracks that you’ll hear as you progress through the game. The music itself is as dynamic as ever, as each track is embellished upon with ambient little beats and tones that are added in real time as you snap pieces together and fill up each board.
Chime Sharp is one of those games that’s very easy to pick up and learn within just a few moments, but it takes a significant amount of skill and patience to get really good at it and complete every board. While the process itself can get a little tedious, there’s definitely a healthy learning curve that comes with each level, as each one is a different shape and offers a different combination of pieces that you can use. Luckily, I found the mouse controls to be very good with rotating and placing pieces with the accuracy and speed necessary to do well, and the game also supports a controller.
When you first begin Chime, you’re given just one mode to play with. It’s time-based, but you can extend that time via bonuses by covering new ground on the board. The multiplier racks up points, but by itself doesn’t do anything to extend your time. The real intensity from the standard mode comes down to the final seconds of the game, as you can keep extending it by creating new quads in uncharted areas of the map, but each new one only extends the timer by a handful of seconds, so you have to hustle. Once you hit 90% coverage, a completely new level unlocks, as well as additional modes for the same level.
Having said all that, coming to those conclusions about how the standard mode works didn’t come easy, as the game offers no explanation ahead of time. Later modes have a quick rundown in the menu, but you’re really thrown to the wolves from the start about how to advance your multiplier, what resets it, and how pieces will eventually expire. It’s not that the game is hard to figure out, but a small description for this mode would’ve been welcome.
There are a total of four modes in Chime Sharp, but I kept gravitating back to the standard mode and the Sharp mode. In the Sharp mode, the idea is the same – cover 90% of the board to advance – but you’re given bars of health that deteriorate as unused pieces expire. You can replenish your health by creating perfect 4×3 quads, and there’s no timer to speak of, so it ends up being a mode where you have to force yourself to slow down, plan ahead, and leave very few pieces sitting off by themselves.
It’s also worth noting that there’s a practise mode listed under each level, but it doesn’t come as advertised. No matter what board you’ve selected, you’re taken to the same little practise level and given only a small selection of the total pieces in the game to play with, so it pretty much defeats its own purpose. Based on how much of this game is reliant upon skill and repetition, this seems like a pretty big flaw if you’re going to include this mode at all.
Chime Sharp is a good, fun puzzle game that builds upon the ideas of its predecessors in all the right ways. It’s gorgeous to look at, each level flows with the consistency and rhythm that you’d hope for, and the soundtrack is one of the best in video games. It does get a tad tedious, and there are a few things they certainly could’ve done a better job explaining, but it’s well worth the ride if you like your puzzle games to be fast and challenging.
Version Tested: PC