Shape of the World – Nintendo Switch Review

Shape of the World – Nintendo Switch Review

Video games are a broad church indeed. There’s room for anything. There’s room for everything. We love that. And we love that there’s room for a game like Shape of the World.

Shape of the World is a serene, first-person exploration game from fledgling developer Hollow Tree Games. The game lands on Switch by way of publisher Plug In Digital and console port specialists Seaven Studio (who also handled the Xbox One port we reviewed earlier). It’s truly a game of exploration as there’s very little else to drive you through the game’s beautifully realised worlds, other than the joy of discovery. It’s a game that proceeds at whatever pace you’re comfortable with.

You should make that pace as slow as you dare. Relax into the game and let it absorb you. It’s not as though you can actually rush – movement is deliberately one-paced, save for the tiniest burst of acceleration here and there. Take your time, look around and examine how your presence shapes and changes the world around you.

Shape of the World

Emerging from a sensory-deprived fog at the start of the game, you’ll notice the absence of any traditional video game trappings. No UI, no giant flashing indicators showing what to do. Just an ever-evolving landscape and a wonderful dynamic soundtrack to accompany you. In around three-hours of play time, there’s never more to do than this. Explore as you travel towards a giant floating triangle on the horizon, and build your seed collection. Aside from travelling between environments, collecting the 25+ seeds is the only gamey way to measure progress. Throughout your journey you’ll throw seeds to create life, interact with the local fauna, and absorb any vegetation that gets in your way.

The floating triangle’s a beacon, of sorts – a sort-of-goal to help you orient yourself. Reaching it will cause the whole landscape to shift in hue, from arctic white to creamola foam orangey-pink, to 70s royal blue, to grandma fuchsia pink. A cascade of colour that gives some sense of progress as you travel through the world, from Valley to Summit.

Shape of the World

Every environment is teeming with life, and every bit of it as unusual as the world in which it lives. The whole joy of Shape of the World is just exploring to see what you can find, and the game encourages you to do so. While your end goal might be those floating triangles, try as you might it’s impossible to make a bee-line for each. Not because you’re forced off track but because Shape of the World will hint that there’s something more interesting just over there, behind that clump of trees or just around that newly-grown rock formation.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]”Shape of the World is beautiful, abstract and mesmerising… we loved the experience””[/mks_pullquote]It’s difficult to grasp the scale of the world you’re exploring as it constantly shifts around you. Your very presence is the catalyst for environmental change. As you wander further off into the wilderness, the terrain becomes increasingly challenging, slowing you and encouraging you to shift course. We never encountered an invisible wall; instead at the very edges we were often rewarded with sight of some new, strange creature before being gently nudged back on track.

Both visually and aurally, the game is beautiful. There’s always something new to look at, each area imbued with a sense of life and movement. The interactive soundtrack constantly shifts and evolves as you explore. (There’s a linear soundtrack available, over at composer Brent Silk’s Bandcamp page. It is well worth a listen.)

Shape of the World

Shape of the World’s not going to be for everyone. Some will undoubtedly tag the game with the ‘walking simulator’ badge as though that’s some sort of insult. Others will stridently declare that it’s not even a game. But give in to the experience, be open to the journey – not the destination – as the goal, and allow yourself to be charmed, and Shape of the World will offer something worthwhile. We gave in, we were open, and we allowed. We loved the experience. It’s beautiful, abstract, and mesmerising.

Video games are a broad church. Shape of the World undoubtedly has a place, and we’re joyous that such unusual experiences that challenge our preconceptions of what a video games are have their place on today’s consoles, making them accessible for all.

YouTube player

Shape of the World is available from the eShop for £13.49 / $14.99 USD / €14.99.

Release Date: 5 June 2018 on PC and PS4, 6 June Nintendo Switch and Xbox One


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Beautiful and serene. Line a napping Anna Kendrick.
  • 8/10
    Overall - 8.0/10
8/10

Summary

Wait, what? 8 / 10? When you reviewed it for Xbox you gave it 5. What gives? Is the Switch vesrion just beter, somehow?

Okay, gentle reader, let’s walk you through this. Game reviews are subjective. For them to have any meaning, they HAVE to be personal. Why? Because we’re all different. We all like different things, our boats are floated by different experiences and we like to play different games.

The Switch version of Shape of the World is indistinguishable from the Xbox version. And probably the PS4 and PC versions too (shut up, PC-master-race nerds. No one cares about anisotropic filtering or ambient occlusion or hypercongolate metafilterfettlegasms, okay?)

We scored the two versions differently because crash-monsta and I are different people; I’m more Scottish and have a real name, for example. And also I simply enjoyed Shape of the World more than he did.

“But how do we know who is right?” I hear you wail. I’ll keep it simple. We both are. In the case of our game reviews, our opinions are equally valid. (Don’t get me started on the whole “an opinion can’t be wrong” thing, because many absolutely are).

So, if you read both reviews and still don’t know if the game is right for you, why not read some of our other reviews? Find which one of us – or which other AB Gaming writer – seems to have tastes most similar to yours.

Disagree with both of us? Great! Why not join the team?

Nintendo Switch Review Reviews