Mention charity gaming to Robert Kotick and his internal memory chip will combust initiating a preemptive company meltdown. Probably. Possible libel suit there.
Luckily it’s the non-profit company OneBigGame publishing Chime as its first charity gaming endeavor, and right in the middle of an economic apocalypse too. But wait, don’t go, it’s not that kind of charity; the kind that politely ask if you have a moment to help starving children caught within politically corrupt war-zones as you lower your gaze or pretend your aunt Jane is on the phone. No, Chime buries all the bleak charity stuff deep beneath its simple gameplay and delightful melodies so nothing besides some garish menus and an appreciative achievement will remind you that you’re unwittingly funding charitable causes. And actually I wasn’t supposed to mention charity in the review, better hush up.
Chime will seem familiar to anyone who has spent more than five seconds playing Tetris or Lumines. It lacks the latter games’ ferocity focusing instead on creating its own brand of tranquil puzzles serenaded with music from the likes of Philip Glass and Moby that evolves as you play.
The aim is to complete each of the five giant digital puzzles and emphasis placed on creation rather than destruction. Blocks built from five smaller shapes are generated at random and once enough of them have been placed onto the board to make a 3×3 block or bigger the beatline – a sort of laser that washes across the board – flushes away any completed blocks while altering the music to reflect your progress, much in the same way as the cult classic Rez. And the quicker the better because multipliers and leaderboards have been thrown in to add some depth and a little competition.
Of the five boards, only two differ vastly in shape. The final levels are split in half to produce some tighter passages that need a little more consideration than the vast open canvases of the first three, which require precious little beyond basic cognitive function to conquer. More extravagantly shaped pieces are introduced during the later levels as well while the rudimentary pieces fall out of use to subtly increase the challenge.
But the emphasis is on subtly because Chime is all about its soundtrack with Philip Glass and Paul Hartnoll, among others, contributing to the game. The music is subjective yes, but you would be hard pressed to disagree with all five songs, Hartnoll’s Orbital is a cut above the rest for me. But there isn’t a tune that contradicts the serene nature of the game and they all stroll along developing quickly as the board is filled.
And ultimately it’s either going to trap you in a calm trance and in it steal ten minutes in the space of one, the sign of a good puzzle game, or bore you senseless depending on how much you live for basic puzzle games. With the occasional race to continue a quad aside (and some moderately taxing achievements) this is Zen gaming, fashioned to compliment its soundtrack. Free Mode even dispenses with the timer, leaving you and the board alone to enjoy some quality time exploring the infinite possibilities of fixing jigsaw pieces together without having to find all the edge pieces first.
But with that lies the possibility that once you have finished its five levels, Chime may be consigned to a vague memory and abandoned to amass virtual dust alongside Hexic. But even so, it’s too easy to like and with its absorbing take on a renowned formula and quirky soundtrack it can hold its own in this rich period in the gaming calendar.
Play it. Save the world.