Common Sense Review
Updated August 2012

Sound Shapes

Jazzy music game lets kids design levels and create music
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating
Not Yet Rated
  • Arcade levels are colorful and challenging.
  • Players unlock new shapes and sounds in Story Mode.
  • Players can create and share their own levels in a safe online community.
  • Players create music by dropping symbols onto a grid.
Pros
Sound Shapes creates an exciting and inspiring way for kids to tap into their digital music creativity.
Cons
This clever music game doesn't teach formal music notation.
Bottom Line
A visually stunning music game that inspires creativity by providing simple but powerful tools to build your own music games to share with others.
Erin Bell
Common Sense Reviewer
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 5

Game design is top-notch, with stunning graphics and unique sound palettes. Players unlock new sounds and shapes to use in their own songs by finishing game levels, which is a very effective way to engage.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 3

Kids learn by experimenting in a very forgiving and encouraging environment. Kids don't learn formal music notation but can easily apply the principles of rhythm, pitch, and timbre they learn to other musical pursuits and projects.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 3

Tutorials explain the basics, but kids learn by experimenting as well. There's an extensive online fan community, accessed through the game, that lets players share their original musical tracks.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

Sound Shapes could be used to teach kids the basics of electronic music (loops, layering, digital sounds), music composition, and game design. It's an accessible way to introduce music through the familiar and popular medium of video games. Kids can learn about critiquing as they offer feedback on each others' creations.

Students could be broken into small groups to collaborate on levels, or take turns with the game so that each person gets a turn to create their own level. Only one console is necessary, since dozens of levels can be saved on a single copy of the game. The tools needed to create tracks (audio samples, characters, and shapes) need to be unlocked by playing Story Mode before they're accessible. Teachers might want to play the game to unlock some of the content before introducing the game to the class. That way, students will spend more time in the song editor and less time playing the game to unlock content. However, playing the engaging game also gives kids a sense of how to design variations to existing levels.

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What's It Like?

Sound Shapes is a visually stunning platform puzzle game set to a rich musical soundscape that evolves as players interact with the environment. Players navigate a blob character through various obstacles and challenges, completing "albums" of levels that unlock new sounds and shapes that can be used to create their own levels. In the level-creator part of the game, players create their own musical levels by dragging and dropping elements into an editing grid. Kids can then share their music video game creations in a safe online community.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Sound Shapes is a video game that has great learning potential. While the arcade action part of the game provides a rich musical track that's influenced by a player's actions, the real learning happens in a mode where players experiment with creating their own musical games.

Sound Shapes doesn't teach traditional music notation; rather, kids intuitively learn principles of rhythm, pitch, and timbre by experimenting and creating their own electronic music loops in the surprisingly robust level editor. Kids can select modality (major, minor, pentatonic, chromatic) and speed (by adjusting the BPM), and can observe how rhythmic subdivision works as they arrange symbols on a gridlike sheet for playback.

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See how teachers are using Sound Shapes