Shape of the World (Switch) Review – Gorgeous Walking
Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch (reviewed), Xbox One, PS4
Developer/Publisher: Hollow Tree Games
Release: 6th June 2018
Walking simulators – a genre often igniting the question if those titles are games at all or if it´s just a boring waste of time. Indie developers, in particular, grew fond of this mechanic, bringing more and more games onto the market to saturate … a market I guess. Shape of the World is exactly one of those, that´s what I expected at least. Yet, once I spent time with it, I began to understand how it´s the far better version of Bokida I never felt I wanted.
The first moments feel like many other indie titles: You start out in a blank space, with no sound, simply one obscure seeming figure in the distant. The closer you come, the more you see, slowly beginning to understand, that a whole world is slowly opening to you. When you finally set your first step into Shape of the World´s magnificent world, there´s not much guidance either. The whole game is about exploring this unknown space full of mysteries … or rushing through it, missing anything it may offer.
Now the sole goal could be considered reaching the credits and being done with this game. Yet, that would be one of the biggest mistakes of your life. While one could certainly rush to the end, the true treasure of Shape of the World lies in its beautiful art style. Everything´s colourful, bright and abstract, in fact, there are more than a dozen different environment styles, each unlocked after wandering through the first or straying from the given path.
A big reason why its style works so well over so many different worlds, is the fact, that it adjusts itself accordingly. Shape of the World isn´t a game bound to shapes, rather re-imagining itself every time. From a purple biotope with flying fish-like creatures and living grass to an environment seemingly crafted solely with shapes. Combined with a different colour palette, the change comes solely in the form of new, unique ideas invoked into this world. In contrast to other indies, which rely on merely changing the colour or select another geometrical shape, it does so much more in every department. At times, it almost doesn´t feel like you’re playing the same game you played 20 minutes ago. Even then, every single new idea is absolutely stunning to look at in its own right.
Yet, in exchange for a breath-taking journey, the gameplay became somewhat of a mix between relaxing and weird. Walking is pretty much the only thing you can do and you don´t even have to learn anything else to reach the credits. Unfortunately, Shape of the World also introduced so-called seeds. You can search the game for those, allowing you to build trees which will allow some short speed bursts. The problem here consists in the fact, all those things are rewarded for sometimes tiresome exploration. At many points, the game forces you to look away from the gorgeous big picture, to focus more on the flat, ever-the-same textures, sometimes decorated by a seed. Otherwise, though, it´s a neat little bonus for explorers.
Shape of the World is an interesting game, unfitting to be categorized as nothing else than an experience. It´s one of the most unique and well-made titles in this niche as well, due to the sheer creativity put into every new environment and style. Though I still question myself if such an immersive ride is best played on the go, where you can be interrupted every single second.
[A Review Code was provided by Evolve PR]