Shape of the World is another minimalist exploration-driven game with a strong focus on the audio-visual experience. You could debate the amount of of gameplay on offer - and I’d be hard-pressed to argue - but it’s undoubtedly interactive and the simple, free-flowing traversal and light puzzle mechanics were enough to keep me enthralled for several hours.
You begin the game looking forward into a snowy wonderland - at least that’s what I think it was - a glowing triangle in the distance beckoning you forward. Get close and the music swells, the portal opens, and you’re thrust forward as the world changes in form and colour. Aside from brief excursions trigger glowing spheres, monoliths, and stones in the world - the bulk of which create glowing staircases to new areas or propel you towards them - you’ll be progressing towards these portals time and time again with little deviation the formula. Sometimes the levels open up and you can tackle several portals in any order but, inevitably, you’ll be funneled through to the next "level", each based on a different biome, as you slowly ascend towards the peak.
Interacting with glowing objects constitutes the bulk of gameplay outside of traversing the shifting world. There is, at least, pleasant audio feedback to everything you do, which slightly elevates the experience.
Best I could tell, each region possesses one or more sets of seeds to collect, allowing you to fling these around and instantly reforest vast swathes of the environment (for reasons I’m not entirely sure). Like any modern gamer, the inability to aim-down-sights and kill something everything 30 microseconds left me flinging these seeds with reckless abandon, sprouting forests and often blocking my own path until I realized you could also interact with vegetation to consume it. These seeds serve as the game’s one and only collectible; something I consider a plus point these days. YOu'll also encounter an array of bizarre and skittish wildlife, the most aggressive of which might bump you around but never pose any real threat to progression.
Behold! The world's most deadly creature!
So far, so barely interactive, yet I still spent several hours zoning out with the game on a Sunday and I don’t regret the time spent in the slightest. It’s perhaps most similar to Proteus, albeit with a little more guidance. Unlike Proteus, which was on the PS Vita, this is only coming the the handheld Switch later; a shame as playing that game in bed was the ultimate relaxing experience and could put me to sleep in record time (and I honestly mean that in a nice way). It’s the type of game that asks you to relax and absorb the shifting visuals while appreciating how the music perfectly matches the action on screen.
You'll take short breaks from the sprawling outdoor environments to explore beautiful caves, traversed by changing water levels.
The environment and everything in it consist of single-colour, textureless surfaces that rely on the geometry and shading to give them a sense of depth. It works well and is a perfect fit for the terrain that deforms and morphs in front of you. The landscape is pastel-coloured while the vegetation or the creatures that cohabit it often stand out in striking, contrasting colors. The music mostly soft electronic tracks that slowly build up to a crescendo as you approach a new portal or complete a puzzle; it’s incredibly soothing and a perfect match for the trippy visual experience. Performance was solid - though the pace is so sedate you’d never know if the frame rate was dropping - but I encountered a few bugs. Several times I got stuck in a moving object and once I was launched miles across the map (which at least did a great job of demonstrating the scale of the world and procedural generation of the foliage).
Do I recommend this game? Yes, if you’re part of that niche audience who's looking for a relaxing experience to take your mind of things and zone out into a near-meditative state. As far as actual longevity and pure gameplay go, there’s little to recommend other than the entrancing visuals and music (it helps that it's reasonably priced at around R200 on console and half that on PC). This is a game that offers trophies for completing it up to three times, and completing it both quickly and slowly, so make of that what you will.
Enjoys games with awesome stories and characters, along with new and interesting hardware. Dislikes day-one patches and driver updates.
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Hollow Tree Games
Plug In Digital
PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
6 June 2018
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