Chime Sharp Review
It’s been almost a decade since I’ve heard the name Chime come up, so I was surprised to learn of a Nintendo Switch game releasing entitled Chime Sharp, which sparked a vague memory of mine. You see, back around 2010 the developers at Zoe Mode released an Xbox Live Arcade game called Chime. The music-puzzle block genre had seen a small bump in popularity around that time and I had spent countless hours enjoying another similar game called Lumines Live that had seen success on multiple platforms. Needless to say I was stoked to give this sequel of sorts a try and see if it could draw me in as it had before.
Chime Sharp comes to us thanks to Kickstarter efforts from several of the original game’s developers a few years back in 2016. I hadn’t actually heard about the crowdfunding at all until I saw this Nintendo Switch release and then proceeded to go digging a bit. Successfully funded, it launched Early Access on Steam and moved into a full release later. Now we’re seeing it migrate to the ripely built Nintendo system that’s fully capable of highlighting this genre, as has clearly been indicated by Tetris 99 and many other puzzlers that have graced the hybrid system.
For those unfamiliar with Chime or even Lumines, Chime Sharp mixes Tetris styled gameplay with music synching. Add in a timer and board clearing and you get a unique take on the genre, plus there are even more additional rules in the more advanced modes. If that sounds complex that’s because it is, especially when you’re first starting out. An immediate drawback is that there is only very minimal instruction in the form of a single tutorial pane, and no onboarding during your first play. This means that figuring out the UI elements and what everything does ends up being a fair bit more challenging than it really should have been for new and even decade-old returning players. However, after a few trial runs through the initially unlocked stages, you should be able to decipher what needs to be accomplished and then it’s on to the challenge of completing the board.
Chime Sharp’s gameplay is quite unique. Unlike Tetris where you’re attempting to clear rows, here the primary goal is creating blocks by combining the shapes. When a minimum of a 3×3 block is created it will ‘bake’ into the background (as I like to call it), which really means coloring the background tiles darker. To advance into new game modes per song, you’ll need to turn at least 60% of the tiles in the background to that darker tint by combining those blocks. While it sounds easy enough, several factors keep this game interesting during every moment of gameplay.
Each level is on a timer, which means you need to create those chunks quickly and efficiently. The faster and larger ones you create, the more time will be added, but inevitably, time will run out. I personally found Normal mode, the default unlocked mode for every song, to be very challenging. For the most part it’s still generally achievable to reach that threshold to unlock Chime mode, the second of three modes. In my time playing however, I didn’t ever hit the required threshold to unlock Strike mode, which was the final game variation that can be played for any of the songs.
The other feature that makes Chime Sharp stand out is its song integration. Each level is actually a licensed song, and there are 16 in total. The songs are all primarily electronic music, ranging from chiptunes to a track from Chvrches and other groups you likely haven’t heard of yet. When you first start a level, you’ll have a very basic melody or beat playing in a loop. Once you start clearing the board by creating those blocks with the puzzle pieces, the song track will fill out more and more. You can see milestone sections from the bottom UI bar while playing, and each threshold you cross creates more of the song’s composition.
An element I thought was cool is that for each song you play, the board you play on and even the puzzle shapes are different. This feature helps alleviate any game fatigue and also forces players to strategize based on the song they’re playing, which is a very welcome feature.
As I spoke about earlier, hitting 60% of a song’s board will unlock Chime Mode. This mode creates a new variation of the rules for an even more challenging experience. The timer goes away, but now unused fragments of puzzle pieces that disappear will cost you lives, and during a song you only have a so many lives. This new variation changes the strategy of how you’ll place pieces and manage blocks that you create more effectively. I think this mode was a ton of fun, but I struggle to hit 40% most of the time. I do anticipate with some more practice I’ll hit the threshold needed to unlock that last mode and I’m excited to see what new twist awaits.
Along with unlocking those extra modes, Chime Sharp has a few more things to unlock. From the Extras menus, there are two lock icons, but per a pet peeve of mine, there’s absolutely no hint as to what these are or how to unlock them. This is something I see in games now and again, but really, I just loathe the ambiguity. If you’ve got something special locked away, give me a pop-up dialog on how to earn it, especially if it’s something important or really cool, as ultimately, I’ll just end up Googling what it is regardless.
Chime Sharp does feel like a proper successor to the original even after all these years. It hits the right beats and offers expanded gameplay, which I think a lot of faithful fans desired. The game certainly panders to veteran players, but does so at the expense of brand-new users, which are left with a very confusing gameplay experience early on. For most players it shouldn’t take too long to get into the groove of things, and start finding a way to master each song. There’s also a very reasonable amount of content for the entry price of this game, and I do hope we’ll see some DLC in the future. If you’re looking to expand your puzzle/music styled games, Chime Sharp belongs in your library.
Chime Sharp Review
- Graphics - 6.5/106.5/10
- Sound - 8/108/10
- Gameplay - 7/107/10
- Lasting Appeal - 6/106/10
Final Thoughts: WORTH CONSIDERING
Chime Sharp brings puzzle placing action into the music genre after a long hiatus from other platforms. It delivers a more refined experience than its predecessor from long ago, and certainly should whet the appetites for longtime fans. There’s a bit of a learning curve, and not everything is explained very clearly to new users, but it shouldn’t hold anyone back for too long. For fans of puzzle games, it’s a solid game to have in your library, but may be a bit niche for everyone else.
Alex has been actively gaming since the release of the Nintendo. Turning passion into profession, he’s spent just over a decade in game development, and is currently the Creative Director at a studio.