Shape of the World (Switch eShop) Review
The video game landscape has evolved so rapidly since its inception. We are privy to an incredibly vast array of gameplay styles that simply would have been inconceivable in the early days of gaming. In recent years we’ve seen the line blur between games and experiences, between those that exist for fun and entertainment and those that aim to provide an interactive piece of art. The Shape of the World straddles that line, offering a game in the loosest sense of the word that exists purely to take you on a journey to another dimension.
The parallels to Journey and other walking-simulator type games are quickly apparent. You’re dropped into a vast wilderness with no context, no instructions, and no objective. The colourful landscape at your feet is yours to explore as you see fit, with nothing but a floating triangle in the sky to guide your way. The style here is immediately striking, full of bright bold colours that looks and feels like a painting brought to life.
The environment literally blossoms as you explore, with flora blooming to life at your footsteps as you embark on your journey up the mountain. At times it can truly be a breathtaking spectacle, and there was more than one occasion where I stopped to simply take a moment and absorb the tranquillity of the scenery. Each triangle gateway you pass through changes the colour palette, plant life and roaming creatures around you. It’s a smart design decision that keeps everything feeling fresh and vibrant, pushing you from point to point as you wait to see what the next transition will bring.
As far actual gameplay mechanics go, there isn’t much here of which to speak. Your actions are limited to movement, a small jump, and a button to interact with certain objects in the environment. You can activate boulders to launch yourself towards them, spires to fill a bed of water, or a group of pillars to conjure a magical staircase which will whisk you across the landscape with incredible speed and grace whilst providing an opportunity to bask in the view below.
There are also unique seeds to locate in each area with which you can plant a tree to use to give yourself a tiny speed boost, as well as marking a collectable icon off the pause screen, but there’s little incentive to seek them out.
This is not a game about mechanics or gameplay elements. This is a piece of interactive entertainment designed to be experienced, not played, and this means that your personal enjoyment derived from it will depend greatly on what you find interesting and what you expect from your games. Those looking for a compelling gameplay loop, a deep story or complex mechanics should look elsewhere, but that kind of misses the point of what’s on offer here.
This is a game designed as an escape. In an industry of games filled with fast-paced action and mentally taxing challenges, here is the opportunity to transport yourself to another dimension, to take a leisurely stroll through a visually stunning vista and just enjoy the scenery. The highlight here is undoubtedly the dynamic soundtrack, which combines soothing ambience and gentle sounds of nature that perfectly match your actions. It creates a meditative atmosphere that is extremely relaxing and is best experienced through headphones for maximum immersion.
There are some technical aspects that unfortunately bring down the overall package. Occasionally the game will transition to a new colour scheme that is simply unpleasant to the eye, and the flat shading combined with dark, poorly contrasted colours in these areas can make navigation confusing. It also runs at 30 fps which when compared to the smooth 60 fps seen on other consoles does, unfortunately, take away from some of the beauty on display.
It’s also over just as it begins, lasting only around an hour and a half, though you can choose to replay chapters to collect any missed seeds and just continuing wandering. There are some hints at a grand story behind it all, but it never amounts to much of anything. Some further environmental clues to flesh out the world would have added more incentive to explore off the beaten path. With that said, the final shot of the game is a beautiful moment that provides a satisfying end to your journey.
It’s difficult to score a game such as this. It’s such a personal experience that will evoke very different responses depending on the player. There’s not much of a game here, and that certainly means it’s not for everyone. Some technical issues and the short length also make it a more difficult sell. With that said it’s easy to be swept up in the serenity and tranquillity as this realm takes shape around you, and to drift into a peaceful state of mind as you soak in the sights. If you’re after something a little bit different, it’s not a bad way to escape for a couple of hours.
+ Breathtaking soundtrack
+ A relaxing escape
- Occasional poor colour combinations
- Very short for the price