Of all shapes and colors.
I think it is important to start this review by addressing the elephant in the room: Shape of the World can be labelled as a ‘walking simulator’. Often used in a deprecating way, this label refers to games that does not fit in ordinary game categories due to their ‘lack’ of immediate mechanics. Instead of doing game-y things like shooting, or jumping, you’re provided with a world to explore, and a narrative to form. On these games – and on Shape of the World, consequently – you are more a witness than an actor, so it is important to know what to expect here.
What you may not expect from Shape of the World, though, is how it brings something unique to the contemplative experience of walking simulators. As other games in the genre, your journey through surreal environments happens within a first-person perspective. With the left stick, you control the movements of your nameless character, and with the right, you control the camera. The different thing here is that, when you start your adventure, there is no visible world to explore.
Yes, you read it right. Without a single word about your objective, an empty white screen is everything you see. However, as you start to walk, an ominous triangle shape takes form somewhere in the horizon. After approaching it, you’ll discover the main catch of Shape of the World – the entire world will only take shape around you as you walk. So, as you approach what seems to be an empty and unexplored space, tress will quickly sprout around you, and rocks will pop out from the ground.
With that single idea, Shape of the World manages to deliver a unique way to explore a surrealistic world. Due to its contemplative nature, it reminds of games like Proteus in some way. This means that you’re pretty much free to go anywhere, driven by the curiosity to see what you may encounter. You can encounter many creatures, or some unique flora. However, even if you can ‘interact’ with some of these – some animals will react if you touch them, for example – there is no big reason for you to do such things. Remember, this isn’t a game-y game.
This doesn’t mean that Shape of the World lacks an ultimate objective. You’ll constantly find those triangle shapes I mentioned before. Every time you pass through one of these, the entire world will change, and you’ll progress through the game’s ‘story’. These are truly magnificent moments to experience, as the entire world will change colors, often changing in very substantial ways the environmental mood, and, consequently, your vision about the region you’re exploring. Here and there, you’ll also find some glowing rocks that you can activate to make some stairs appear. They are the closest thing to puzzles you’ll find here, regardless of being very straight forward, providing no challenge at all.
These simple gameplay elements is everything you’ll encounter during the two hours that take until your reach the end credits. Still, if you want to witness a visual spectacle, and experience a relaxing adventure, Shape of the World is a worthy acquisition.