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.
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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.
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.
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