A Less Caustic Review

Every so often, amidst the rolling seas of mediocrity far out within the gaming industry, there is something new and exciting and interesting which commands immediate attention. Often though, these gems go completely unnoticed or suffer from a nasty disease called “indie for the sake of being indie.”
It’s easy to be grossly skeptical of everything that moves in these troubled times for the industry, easy to take good games for granted. One such game though caught my attention during a Steam sale not too long ago.

Despite its genre label as “casual,” Chime has consumed over 50 hours of my time. To be fair, the genre label would be hard to pin down. It is a puzzle type, music type, indie type game. It has a seemingly simple concept: A bar moves across a grid in time with the BPM of a song. Each song has a set of differently shaped pieces. You make a certain size filled rectangle with these pieces, or larger, and it colors the grid in. You gain bonuses for larger rectangles, and can expand on their size while they are still active.

As the bar passes and the song progresses, any “leftover” squares from your rectangle (since making perfect boxes is uncommon) will gradually fade in color, then flash. If the bar passes over a flashing square, you lose your bonus points.
There are three increments of time “difficulties” as it were, though when you cover enough of the grid, you get time bonuses, which add time back onto how much you have remaining. This means that a song under the 3-minute difficulty can actually be a lot longer. Each round ends when the grid is fully covered with color, and then a new round will start with whatever amount of time you had remaining when the prior round completed. You still get more “coverage bonuses” so that more time can be added.

There are six songs total in the version of Chime for Steam. Some are more well-liked than others for sure, but hatred of the songs past the 2nd are most likely caused by shapes of the pieces you are given. The difficulty scaling is actually interesting, in that songs 3-5 are difficult for completely different reasons, and song 6 is arguably the most difficult because it combines each aspect of the prior three into an amalgam of everything you hated about them. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it leads you to grow tired of the last four songs incredibly quickly.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like any DLC (free or otherwise). And when you’ve sunk 50+ hours into a game with only six songs, you start to feel like you’re losing out. That isn’t to say that 50+ hours isn’t worth the $5. It’s just lost potential.

Possibly the most problematic thing about the game is that you are occasionally reminded that you are playing a port from a console.

The mouse will “snap” to spaces on the grid. Which seems like a good idea, except that sometimes (read: when it’s most inconvenient for you) the mouse will snap back and you will place a block where you did not intend.

However, overall the game is quite well done. It doesn’t shove the whole indie thing in your face, and the difficulty scales extremely well. You will reach certain plateaus though in your skill level, which can often be difficult to overcome. There are leaderboards if you’re interested in being competitive, though you will quickly see fudged/faked scores on a couple of songs. The graphical quality (albeit simple) is effective, and the music quality is also great.

There is also a mode in which you can just place blocks and listen to the music. It’s mostly pretty chill trance music, so if you’re into that sort of thing, you’ll probably enjoy it.
For $5, you can’t go wrong. And odds are it’ll show up on a Steam sale again and be even less. You may not sink as many hours into it as I did, but you ought to enjoy it.

3 PM edit: While writing this review, a friend of mine stated that she had broken a new record for the 6 minute version of Brazil. I said “y’know, you should fraps yourself playing one of these times.” She did and broke a new record on the 3 minute version of Brazil. So here’s a great opportunity to show you what the pinnacle of ability in this game is like:

Also a great way to show you how long a “3 minute” difficulty game can be. This is the first part of three videos, for a grand total of 41 minutes.

Gotta go fast.

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