Chime Sharp (or C#, as I’ll call it for brevity) is a music-based puzzle game, in which you place blocks on a grid in order to clear them, all as a timeline clears the blocks as it passes over them. At first glance, this seems to be a poor man’s Lumines, and I won’t fault anyone for thinking this. I did too, but once I gave it a chance, there is quite a bit that lets it stand apart from the crowd.
Instead of the standard ‘blocks falling from the sky’ setup, you’re given more direct controls in C#. The game board is laid out, with gaps placed differently on different boards, and the song you’ve chosen starts up. You are given one pentomino (different shapes made from five smaller blocks) and can place it anywhere on the board you choose, rotated any direction you choose. The next pentomino in the queue is given to you, and you place it, and so on, and so forth. The goal is to create ‘quads’, or 3×3 blocks, which then begin to fill with color. If you can add another full row to one side of it, the score the quad is worth increases, and the timer resets. After the quad is fully filled, it locks into place and cannot be added on to, and on the timeline’s next pass will be cleared from the board.
Cleared blocks ‘paint’ the grid underneath them, allowing for the secondary goal; clearing the board by making quads on unpainted tiles. If fragments are left too long, the game will clear them away (though not before warning you, first changing colours and, before the final pass, causing them to blink and shake), canceling your multiplier obtained by clearing multiple quads in a row. The game is over when the timer at the top of the screen runs out, though you can add time by performing well, and even finish the song so that it loops, clearing the board entirely and starting from scratch (with your score and multiplier intact).
As you can clearly see, the similarities to Lumines lie almost completely in the game’s aesthetics, with the actual game giving you much more control over what happens next. The core gameplay is fairly addictive, with me seeing the patterns in daydreams while at work or doing idle activities (the hallmark of a good puzzle game!). The graphics are quite good, for what they are (blocks on a grid, namely). They certainly have a mesmerizing look to them, and fit the music well. The game runs smoothly, and the color scheme varies from level to level. Most of the color schemes chosen are very pleasing, however, a handful of them are rather garish and actually detract from the gameplay, making it hard to tell which fragments are closest to clearing. Apparently, there’s an option to change color schemes hidden in the options, but I was unable to find it myself.
Besides the practice mode and standard mode, there’s also Sharp mode, which gets rid of the time limit but penalizes you more heavily for leaving unused fragments, the game ending after ten fragments are wiped away without being used for a quad. I didn’t find this mode as engaging as the standard mode, but it adds variety that’s needed, as there are only sixteen tracks in the game. There’s also Strike mode, which gives you just ninety seconds to score as high as you can. That’s all there is to that one, really. Finally, there’s Challenge mode, which can be extremely frustrating, but is perfect for people looking to test their C# skills to the limit!
I suppose the other most important aspect of a music-based puzzle game would be the music, and they’ve picked quite a few good ones! Artists like CHVRCHΞS, Message to Bears, Magic Sword, and A Mote of Dust all add variety to the music, with a unique variable mix feature. The music starts at an almost cacophonous drone, and as you clear the grid more and more pieces of the track are mixed in, finally resulting in the full song when you clear the level. This is an interesting twist, making the music itself (which also controls the pace of the gameplay) a reward of sorts for playing well.
My main gripe with the game is how opaque it can be starting out. There’s not much in the way of explanation for almost anything, and no in-game tutorials. I had to get online and look in the manual to find explanations for how the scoring and unlocking system worked, and even then it was a little unclear. Some of the music isn’t exactly my style, but that all boils down to personal preference.
With a little polish, and a tutorial (perhaps in a further update?) this could be one of the puzzle greats. As it is, I quite enjoyed my time with it, and will continue to play it when I have a few minutes to spare, or when I feel the need to scratch that puzzle itch. If you’re willing to put the time in with it, C# is a unique experience that stands out from the crowd and is certainly worth a look.