I wish someone had told me Just Shapes & Beats existed before I stumbled across it a month after release. If you know my taste in games, you’ll know that a weirdly artsy rhythm based bull hell hybrid is going to 100% be up my alley. Just Shapes & Beats nails that combo so hard it’ll be tough to see anybody else even give it a shot. As I played the first hour of Shapes and Beats, I had a bigger smile on my face than from any other game this year. It’s a game that just exudes pure joy even in the face of some surprisingly difficult challenges. I loved every minute.
It plays out like an interactive music video, your tiny little character moves and dashes around the screen avoiding pink obstacles that move in tune with the music. Levels vary wildly, from false 3D effects of bullets spinning around, to caverns filled with musical stalactites. As short as the game is, it crams so much variety into its two or three hours of dubstep and electronica tracks that I was ready to hop right back in as soon as it was done. Luckily, there’s a challenge mode where that exact option is available.
I understand a the main criticism I’ve seen thus far: yes, some of the obstacles and attacks are completely unfair, untelegraphed, and unacceptable in such an otherwise polished game. You have more health than you need for the most part, and I just take the damage from dumb trial-and-error attacks as they come, and remember to avoid them next time if I need to. Moments where damage is almost unavoidable are luckily few and far between, but I understand if those moments turn you off from the experience.
I know it’s a cliche to say a game is like X meets X, but this is one time where it felt like such a strange combination that I needed to get it off my chest. Imagine if the gameplay from Child of Eden and the emotional sincerity of Undertale were rolled into one video game, and you’ll have a slight understanding of the weirdness that this game pokes at by the time the credits roll.
Just Shapes & Beats is a game that I feel very few people are going to play. That sucks. It’s without a doubt the most unique game I’ve played this year, and pretty darn close to my favorite game of 2018. Go check it out!