In the back of a noisy club, a bunch of Cheeto-eating stoners are adopting the primary pose of â€œThe Chillout Roomâ€. Arranged in a series of semi-natural shapes, throbbing space cadets nod their heads in silent reverie to a collection of tripped-out ambient tunes from the likes of Philip Glass, Moby, Paul Hartnoll, Markus Schulz and Fred Deakin.
Shapes enter their blank minds. Their obsessive compulsive disorders collectively kick in to high gear and the need to fill the void with colour preoccupies them more than the need to get laid, eat junk or roll another doobie.
Itâ€™s easy to see why titles like Chime instantly click with people. Slap enough minor chord-enhanced electronica over the back of even the simplest idea and youâ€™re on to a winner.
Borrowing heavily from games like Tetris and Lumines, Chime is a puzzler that goes beyond the usual cover-splash for â€œinteractive music experiencesâ€ unfolding delicately like a china flower as you strive to fill a cold bleak cybergrid with tessellating shapes. Tinkling music echoes in the background but when you form a quad, a grid of linked solid squares measuring at least 3×3 gridsquares high and wide, the music erupts into life and beautiful phrases and passages punctuate the undertow.
Itâ€™s like finding the hidden phallus in a Jackson Pollock painting, or noticing the two-microsecond jump-cut inserted into your favourite arthouse film that shows a cherub brandishing a machine gun, mowing down a bus queue full of pensioners.
Chime delicately caresses your visual and aural centres, feeling like the perfect antidote to the loud bangs and crashes of the action shooter youâ€™d been playing an hour ago, or the scream of virtual rubber on faux tarmac from the racing game you nearly fell asleep in front of an hour before that. Simply put, this project takes some of the best works by ambient superstars and tricks you into pretending you wrote them yourself.
The reference to Lumines wasnâ€™t accidental, and at first glance itâ€™s easy to be lulled into a hasty decision that the two games are too alike to be separated, thus Chime coming later should instantly be dismissed in some bizarre â€œlast in, first outâ€ snap decision. Lumines and Chime may share the same sense of a need to order, organise and fit things together when really Lumines is all about destroying form. Chime celebrates form and space urging you to use the former to replace the latter.
In Standard timed mode, you are given three, six or nine minutes to fill as much of the Chime gridspace as possible. This sounds easy in theory but when youâ€™re anxiously tapping your foot waiting for the right piece to drop into your lap, every second counts â€“ and 3 minute mode is definitely the most challenging mode to try and grab achievements in. The longer and more leisurely 9 minute mode can even feel like a mad rush at times, but each player will approach Chime differently. Three minutes for Prodigy and Pendulum fans, Nine minutes for William Orbit and The Orb nodders.
In Free Mode, Chime effectively becomes a music sequencer as you slap shapes down, unlocking delicious little musical snippets as the chime bar passes over the grid. Smoothing out the ripples to produce something listenable becomes as compulsive as striving to fill the grid, so once again there is more to Chime than meets the eye.
The game has a heart, too. Artists involved in the gameâ€™s soundtrack have given their tunes freely. A percentage of the sales revenue will go to OneBigGame, a charity organisation with ties to Save The Children and Starlight childrens charities. For once, someoneâ€™s thinking of the children in gaming. A nice thought.
Chime is currently available for 400 MS points on the Xbox Live Marketplace. When youâ€™re in those tween-game moments where you need an ocean of calm, and you canâ€™t afford your own personal masseuse or steam bath, Chime is the perfect antidote to the stresses of modern gaming.