Get this game: Zoe Mode's charitable music-puzzler Chime

It's been a long road for charity-focused games publisher OneBigGame: when I first talked to founder Martin de Ronde in 2007, its goal was to raise funds by soliciting mini-game designs by some of the industry's top developers, and find a studio to bring them all to life in one retail kit, a playable form of fundraising form of 80's supergroup org Band Aid. Flash forward three years -- a lightyear away from the landscape then, with the rise of dedicated digital-download portals across every gaming platform -- and priorities have changed, for the better, with Broken Sword designer Charles Cecil, Parappa creator Masaya Matsuura (and a stellar handful of unannounced devs) now on board to create their own fully formed games for a variety of devices, with proceeds going to benefit charities like Save the Children and Starlight. The bar for those designers has already been set incredibly high, though, as UK studio Zoë Mode lets loose the first game under the OneBigGame label with music puzzler Chime, just released via Xbox Live Arcade.
Genre aficionados will recognize the precedent here, and Zoë Mode wears its influences proudly on its sleeve: take the sweeping 'beatline' of Q Entertainment's PSP-launching Lumines and swap out the falling blocks for an open, free-form arrangement more akin to cult board game Blokus. Fitting together the pieces into 3x3 or higher solid 'quads' clears them off the board, with chains and multipliers that reward you for creating multiple concurrent quads, or for rapidly expanding the quad before its own meter runs out (which it does more quickly on the more difficult levels) and it's cleared off the board. More importantly, the game rewards covering each square of the board's grid before your timer runs through. chimeglass.jpg And how it does that is directly related to the real star here: its musical integration, and the artist list Zoë Mode managed to bring together, a diverse and A-list team including Moby, Orbital's Paul Hartnoll, and no less than composer Philip Glass. Each submitted master versions of their songs, giving the developer the opportunity to tightly integrate the song with your gameplay: each placed block, well, chimes, as the beatline sweeps across it (in almost a faux Tenori-On fashion) with minute bits of the song, a base on top of which each formed quad rewards you with its own samples, and the amount of the board you've covered brings background ambiance to a bold crescendo. It's that even tighter and more direct interplay between the brick laying and the music that sets it far apart even from its Lumines inspiration: it's as truly hypnotic and zone-inducing (particularly, and not surprisingly, on Glass's level) as puzzlers come, and a fantastic start to what is hopefully OneBigGame's long-running campaign for a greater good. Chime has been added to Boing Boing's ongoing list of Games To Get, covering the best in independent and retail games.


  1. It’s excellent. I’m not a big fan of lumines, but this puzzle game really feels great. Good music, good feeling of connection to the music. Its got a timed mode that is fast paced and frantic without being overwhelming (im looking at you Zoop) as well as an endless mode for more relaxed play. Although i think the endless mode might be completely endless, as in you cant lose at all and have to quit out to the title screen to stop.

  2. One of my favorite games which cleverly combine music and puzzling is Auditorium. That game is so beautiful (both the visuals and the audio) that it takes my breath away every time. Playing it on my iPhone in the subway is like being transported into some other world.

  3. Why oh why is there no PC version? :(

    It’d be nice if you could get all the XBLA games on PC. I’d even pay for them!

  4. It’d never work on the iPhone in its current state – trying to control the rotation and placement with the iPhone touchscreen would drive you loco, especially up against the clock. Or maybe I’m simply past it.

    But on the 360, it’s a great game – especially for 400 points. On the strength of the demo I’d have paid 800, but I imagine 400 has been chosen to encourage more casual purchases and charity proceeds. The tracks used work really well, crucially failing to grate in the longer game modes, and the Tetris/Lumines hybrid gameplay is solid hypnotic fun.

    My only issue with it at the moment is hardly the game’s fault – it’s the 360 controller with its dreadful d-pad. It’s so clunky I use the left stick, but that’s a little twitchy, especially when the pressure’s on. But this problem isn’t unique to Chime by any means.

    It also seems like a very large download (>800mb) for the content, but that’s only a problem for me because my 20gb drive needs a good prune.

    I’m always wary of reviews written after one day of play, but I think this is a no-brainer – a smart, enjoyable game at a cheap price with a good chunk of the money going to kids’ charities.

    1. Wow, I felt completely opposite. I couldn’t tell at all how the music and gameplay were linked, or what exactly the bar going across the screen was doing.

      The set-up of the trial version was particularly annoying; in the middle of play, a “buy now” screen pops up, and if you refuse, it dumps you back to the xbox homepage. I’d prefer to play through the trial level a couple of times before deciding on a purchase.

  5. This game looks amazing and I really wish I could get it. But why did they choose to only release it on XBOX Live? Though I admit the XBOX market is large, there are so many other platforms — PS3, Wii, PC, iPhone — that are nearly or even more popular.

    I would happily pay $10 for this game, but as long as it’s on XBLA, I’ll never have the opportunity.

  6. Well, they may not have chosen to only release it on X-Box Live. They may have just chosen to target there first and then try to port it to other platforms. Some of the platforms you mentioned cannot really be targeted with a single cross-platform game. Instead you wind up building similar games. It’s one thing to say “I want to target Mac, Windows, and Linux.” That just means that you have to use cross-platform libraries like Qt, SDL, OpenGL, or Tcl/Tk. That’s pretty doable. But when you want to target XBLA and iPhone, you have completely different control interfaces and screen resolutions.

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