Like Chime, Chime Sharp has players dropping shapes into a grid, attempting to create “quads” by placing shapes in solid blocks of 3x3 or more. The size of these quads denotes the score you’ll rack up, and it’s also possible to rack up multipliers by having several quads on screen at once. The objective is to create enough quads, or large enough quads, to cover a percentage of the grid.
One of the flaws with Chime Sharp is that it never actually tells you what you’re supposed to be doing and how you accomplish it. While the act of building quads becomes more clear over time, the actual objective is kept a secret. Eventually, you may cover enough of a grid to unlock a new track and mode, but when you’re consistently hitting scores of 80%+, it can be confusing and frustrating. This isn’t helped by the fact that we were able to unlock later tracks with much lower scores.
In the beginning, Chime Sharp presents you with five tracks and two game modes, Practice and Standard. It doesn't seem like there's a need for both. After all, why waste your best run on Practice when it offers the same experience as Standard does? To unlock more tracks and modes, you'll need to complete a song. Unfortunately that does mean that a lot of content, including my favourite track - Fox by Shirobon - is locked away until you're somewhat competent.
Once you unlock a new mode, Chime Sharp offers a little more assistance. For example, it tells you how Sharp is played and gives a couple of tips, and offers a goal to unlock the next game mode.
Sharp requires a bit more thought and accuracy, as quads immediately disappear leaving the bits that didn't make it in on the board. These have a limited life span and when they expire, you lose a life. Lose ten and the track ends; that may sound like plenty of wiggle room, but you can nosedive quite quickly if you've been creating quads willy-nilly.
The basic premise behind each mode is filling the grid. There were some levels where the colour scheme wasn't quite distinctive enough, leading to some uncertainty over where had been filled, where had blocks that were fading away, and where the free space was. For the most part, this isn't an issue, but there are some levels where some might sympathise with those who are colour blind and deal with this confusion on a more regular basis.
There are some cracking tracks to be enjoyed as you play. Some of the slower tracks seem a little out of place as you're still under time pressure and may get a little too relaxed with a slower beat. But provided you like music with a bit of a dancey feel to it, there should be some tracks that appeal to you.
Chime Sharp is an entertaining and challenging title that requires you to be able to plan ahead and stay calm despite a ticking clock in all facets of the game. It could certainly be more welcoming to newcomers to the series, but if you stick with it you will be handsomely rewarded with some killer tunes and diverse game modes.