The interactive story genre has surged in popularity in recent years. During this time, it has also earned a sticky, less-favourable name of “walking simulator”. The lack of a fail state of these interactive experiences has led some to question their qualification as games, a conversation which never fades away. Shape of the World, developed by Hollow Tree Games and published by Plug In Digital, embraces this conversation and makes it its core feature.
Shape of the World is a happy game. Everything about it is happy. It is colourful, its world is inhabited by cute animals and there is no danger anywhere. The game puts you into the role of an unnamed observer who wanders through its world, jumping around and occasionally interacting with the environment.
While Shape of the World offers limited interaction — generally pressing a button to activate a set of stairs or open a passage — the main goal is simply to wander around, look at the beautiful environment and maybe stumble upon the exit to the next area at one point.
On this journey, the world unfolds itself before your eyes — quite literally, in fact. Trees sprout from the ground, hills and slopes alter their shape, fog dissipates and allows you to see what is in the distance. The areas of Shape of the World have their limits, but when you can see something in the distance, you can probably reach it after some venturing.
Soothing sounds and a distinct art style set Shape of the World apart from other games. Objects and creatures have no textures. Instead, every surface has a single colour. This may sound boring at first, but grants the environments clarity and sharpness. Fans of Killer7 will recognise this style right away.
Those who would like a little more interaction with the world they are in can pick up various seeds and fling them around. Once they hit the ground, trees being to spring up, giving you limited control over what your surrounding looks like. However, this is not a true gameplay element, but merely something for you to play round with.
You are not alone in Shape of the World. Insects buzz around. Fish swim in lakes and rivers. Land-dwelling octopoid creatures look at you with beady eyes. Some bodies of water are populated by what looks like little Loch Ness monsters. Every animal is cute and not one of them is hostile.
Shape of the World has a nominal goal — reaching the next area via triangular portals that transform the world around you. While you can just rush to the final area, there is no need to do so. Shape of the World invites you to spend time and admire whatever is around you.
Once you leave the game, you can pick up wherever you left off or select an area to start in, provided you have been there already. Even if you take your time, Shape of the World can be completed in two or three hours. While on the short side, it ends before it becomes repetitive.
Shape of the World completely lacks any plot to speak of, or even a background story. It is all about being a beautiful world simulator. Anyone who expects even a little more will be disappointed. Those who can find themselves lost in its shapes and colours will find Shape of the World a relaxing experience and beautiful distraction.
Shape of the World is available on PC & PS4 from the 5th June, and Nintendo Switch and Xbox One from the 6th of June.