Shape of the World Review - Colors in Motion

Shape of the World is an ambient, relaxing, and immersive short journey through a colorful organic world.

Learning to Brighten the World

Players explore different procedurally-populated environments in first person. For example, the forest grows differently when one player walks through it compared to another. Gates are scattered in the distance, and entering one creates new ways to move forward while changing the colors of the world. As the player continues to progress from the valley toward the summit, the game envelopes you in a tranquil experience.

The lack of narrative leaves the player to interpret the story. Are you helping the forest grow by planting seeds and exploring every nook and cranny of the game’s environment? Or are you destroying any signs of nature you can find by interacting with it? Shape of the World takes a minimalistic approach. Players control a silent character that moves, jumps, throws seeds, and interacts with objects.

Painting a Path Forward

Interaction is necessary to progress to new sections of the world, or“chapters.” Pressing one button brings stone-like objects to life. They propel you forward, raise the water level or create steps to progress. Interacting with other objects like trees can fling you forward, making for faster navigation. However, this comes at the cost of “destroying” the environment, which doesn’t impact the story but can be interpreted as a metaphor for people destroying nature to progress.

If players are opposed to destroying the environment, they can collect different seeds scattered throughout the game’s chapters. Collecting seeds changes the color of the world. They can also be thrown into the environment where different trees, foliage, or even rocks form almost instantly based on your location. Players can view the various seeds they’ve collected in the game’s menu.

Beauty and the Beasts

You’re not alone on your adventure. Various creatures inhabit the game’s world. The variety ranges from rock-like creatures that push you to flying creatures you can plant seeds on. These beings make the world feel less barren and give players additional things to interact with and search for. Despite unique traits among most creatures, some do not interact with the player.

Simplicity is central to Shape of the World. Text, for instance, only appears in menus outside of tutorial button prompts. Such a simple approach to a video game might be off-putting for some, but Shape of the World’s dynamic aesthetic and unique environments make players look forward to what will happen next. A sense of wonder drives exploration and progression. Although the game was over quicker than expected, fully-immersed players can get caught in the game’s world for up to three hours.

Seeing the world form and unfold around your actions is candy for your eyes. Different colors make walking through the same area more than once enjoyable, and slinging from object to object is surprisingly fun. The staircase sections were a personal favorite because the faster movement speed brought the world to life far faster in ways normally impossible for the slow character. These sections also highlight some of the game’s best visuals through great vantage points.

Unfortunately, I glitched into an inaccessible area in the Shore chapter and had to quit to resume my journey. Before quitting I spent almost ten minutes trying to boost out of this area by planting trees and interacting with them, which was actually a fun, yet futile challenge. Thankfully I lost little progress. The chapters are short and auto-save, so players should never worry about losing progress.

The Sounds of the World

Shape of the World excels in immersion. Dynamic music shifts from relaxing melodies to epic tunes depending on the player’s location and action. Coupled with distinct sound effects for collectibles and specific actions, the soundtrack adds a sense of satisfaction and awe to progression. Frequently hearing these sounds leads players to associate specific noises with nearby objects like gates and stones.

The sound design and object placement is a testament to the game’s well-executed design, discreetly guiding players forward. Even with the lack of death, enemies, and fall damage, the game still doesn’t punish you for falling. Interacting with a distant stone object can bring you back up with ease, plus the soothing music makes the fall feel even softer.

What Shape is the World?

Shape of the World is enjoyable in the moment but might not be memorable because of its simplicity, which is ironically one of its strengths. This is the type of game that clearly defines video games as art. The simplicity, lack of difficulty, and short length might turn some people away, but those willing to give it a go can look forward to a calming experience.

Score

Good Bad
Immersive Experience Short
Ambient Music Not Very Memorable
Minimalist

- 7/10 -