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Chime Sharp – Review

Chime was first released on Xbox 360 7 years ago, and while it met critical acclaim and gained a loyal cult following it never quite had the pizzaz to be considered a mainstream classic.
Roll on 2017 and Chime Sharp arrives, promising less rough edges, new modes, new visuals and new music, so could this be the next classic puzzler in the making.

When things start off there’s once again a pretty simplistic approach, with the menu screen offering bare bones selection of Play, Extra’s and Leaderboard, I’m sure many will dedicate their time to chasing the leaderboard positions, but most will prefer to jump straight in and enjoy what chime Sharp has to offer.

Once again you’re faced with a large grid that takes up the majority of the screen, some levels will see varied shapes with spaces cut-away that you can’t encroach over, but the premise is still very familiar.  You have to stack together blocks to cover a 3×3 grid, this is called a ‘quad’ for some reason, but worry not, as soon as the quad is made there’s a short time frame as it fills with a colour where you can expand on this quad to make it the more name friendly 4×4 grid, or even 16×4.  The larger you make your grid, the more points you’ll make, but you can’t just go throwing bricks anywhere.

The primary target is to cover as much of the screen as possible, (while racking up some ludicrous scores) initially you might struggle to get half-way, but as you start stacking blocks and noticing relevant spaces, you’ll soon find it far easier and be hitting the 60% required to open the Sharp mode for each of the 16 tracks.

There’s a few modes on offer, with a basic practice session, and then the core Standard mode that most will stick to.  Sharp has a slightly new set of rules starting you off with 10 lives, and rewarding a new life for every perfect quad, leave blocks lying around too long and small fragments will start to flash, if these aren’t made into a quad before the beam of light makes its next pass, you’ll lose a life.

While there’s no time limit on Sharp, the lives do make things more difficult if you’re a messy player, ad this mode will soon sharpen up your placement which helps considerably in other areas.

hitting 60% coverage on Sharp will unlock Strike mode, and there’s also challenges for those patient enough to complete standard mode.

In all gameplay feels very familiar to the original but the new modes do change things up a little, especially when you get used to concentrating on the fragments your losing as much as the quads your making in Sharp.  However the details are what make Chime Sharp so appealing as you progress from level to level.  Firstly your available blocks change dependent on the map and mode, so while you might breeze through one track on standard, the next might prove difficult as you’re suddenly having to get used to a whole new batch of shapes to throw onto the grid.

This really helps with the longevity as you’ll often get carried away, chasing just a little more coverage, knowing you can do better, and as things start to feel a little easier through repetition, the next track with stand out as a whole new challenge.

I keep mentioning Tracks because each level has backing music which plays dynamically as you progress through the level, while the music doesn’t seem quite as memorable as the original Chime, there’s still a decent selection of tracks, though some I couldn’t tolerate as loud as others.

Graphically there’s no rough edges as such, but its such a basic theme, that a bokeh effect background and a few grids just don’t cut the mustard, I often compare the more simplistic games to Geometry Wars, a game that was as basic as you could call for, but as its progressed, the various effects and explosions make it stand out. In this day and age, I’d really like to see a little more flair, even if only to draw attention to stupidly large quads, or fragments dropping. Fragments make me think of Quantum Break, after all these fragments in Sharp mode represent the time in Standard, so why not have some time-bending effects as they dissolve from the screen.

That’s not to say it looks bad, it’s bright, smooth and sharp, but some levels have a colour screen that sometimes makes spaces harder to recognise, and the whole things just a little too ‘standard’ for me.

Back to the gameplay and that’s where Chime Sharp really hits home, its relaxing one minute, but eye watering insane the next, it’s easy and delicate when you start off, but tough and hard-hitting when you’re struggling to keep up.

The main highlight has to be the addictiveness, because while it’s technically a game you can pick up and play for 5 minutes, you never will, because you’ll always be trying to get just a few more percent, and that’s before you start looking at working your way up the leaderboard.

I’ve really enjoyed my time with Chime Sharp, and while It’s not going to sit beside Tetris or Bejeweled as an all-time classic, it’s still one of the best puzzle titles to recently appear on the Xbox One.

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