Just Shapes and Beats
I’m a huge fan of the “bullet-hell” genre of games. Titles such as Lifeforce and Contra on the original NES were the games I cut my teeth on when I was just a youngling. Undertale‘s battle mechanic took this tried-and-true formula and injected it into an instant-classic RPG which is on my personal list as one of the greatest games of all time. As a result, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for titles which force the player to rely on their reflexes and quick-thinking to reach the end of a level. Perhaps it’s because I’m that Bro who is always waxing nostalgic about the bygone era of games I affectionately refer to as “back in my day,” but I’m also a sucker for titles which are easy to pick up and play. Just Shapes and Beats is incredibly easy to pick up-you control a shape and the goal is to avoid all incoming fire/obstacles/other “non-you” shapes for the duration of the level. The concept is a classic gaming trope, however Just Shapes and Beats takes this tried and true gaming formula, injects a healthy dose of bass and a smorgasbord of colors and geometric shapes and creates something both familiar and distinctly unique. I was fortunate enough to get some hands on time with this stylish title way back at PAX West 2017 and just a couple days ago at PAX South 2018, and I’m hoping this game releases much sooner rather than later.
My previous description of the gameplay (and consequently, the whole of the title’s offerings) was both succinct and complete in my humble opinion-you literally control a shape, avoid damage and navigate to the end of the level. However, do not let this concise synopsis of the the game’s core mechanics fool you into believing this title is not bursting with personality or will grow old after 10 minutes: the simplicity of the design allows the minimalistic design elements to absolutely shine-or glow, as the title does have a bit of a neon-infused aesthetic. Just Shapes and Beats only provides the player with the bare necessities-tight gameplay, sick video game inspired music and a bright, simplistic, geometric aesthetic. This truly allows the player to focus on the music they’re hearing and what they’ve got to avoid in order to survive. Everything on screen (other than your the shape you control) needs to be avoided-this incredibly simple mechanic allows you to navigate on reflex and truly get immersed in the music. For a title with a minimalist aesthetic, the atmosphere of the title is incredibly sleek.
Just Shapes and Beats melds one of the most familiar gameplay mechanics with a facet of game development which is routinely overlooked-music. Allowing the player to focus solely on the sleek gameplay while jamming to some incredibly catchy tunes is a potent combination, and it’s one I cannot wait to play more of.