It's tough to believe that Wave Trip would exist in a world without Sound Shapes. Like that brilliantly experiential PlayStation 3 and Vita platformer, Wave Trip merges music-making with a new take on a well-worn gameplay style, with both allowing users to create and share their own stages using the existing level elements on a simple grid-based layout. The similarities extend into music styles and visual design, but using that framework with a side-scrolling runner makes it feel like more than just a noteworthy imitator, with a stronger focus on skill creating a much different overall tone.
Wave Trip actually plays a bit like another presentationally memorable iOS side-scroller, Whale Trail, with a hero that slowly bobs up and down based on whether or not you're touching the screen. Here, though, the goal is to amass the highest possible score in shorter stages by accumulating both orange and blue icons, with the former increasing your score tally while the latter multiplies the added points. All the while, each collected icon adds a beat to the backing track, creating electronic soundscapes with nearly every minuscule action. Avoiding the enemies that fly into view or move around the screen is key to not only keeping your multiplier intact, but also keeping the beat alive, though a tap on the left side triggers a limited-use shield to ward off nearby aggressors.
The resulting experience locates the fine line between soothing and stress-inducing; the myriad blips and audio effects create catchy beats while the boldly colored icons and backdrops tease the eye, but all the while you're tensely attempting to dodge fast-moving foes and topple the global high scores. And the 20 included stages quickly ramp up in difficulty, so don't let the initial breezy introductions fool you. Stringing together a long chain in the later stages feels like a real accomplishment, particularly since the sluggish movement controls come with a learning curve.
Each pre-made stage can be remixed, or you can create your own from scratch using the various icons and enemies seen throughout the game. They're easily placed upon the level creation grid, which plays back your in-progress aural composition while you add and tweak elements, and completed stages can be freely shared online for others to play. That unlocks a wider world of possibilities and significant replay value, though the sharing interface could use a bit more life. Due to randomly-generated stage names and a lack of previews, tapping each user-created stage listing feels like embarking on a blind date, unsure of whether the outcome will prove fruitful or frightening.
The bottom line. Wave Trip may feel derivative in spots to multiplatform players, but it's nevertheless an exciting and engaging musical odyssey.
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