Some games style themselves as virtual experiences or (if you happen to live in the 90s) interactive movies, trying to avoid coming across as a mere game. The Shape on the Ground, developed and published by Somewhat, does something a little different and styles itself as a psychological evaluation.
The developers went the extra mile with their illusion. Not only does The Shape on the Ground‘s itch.io page maintain that the game is indeed software for psychologists, but the game itself even comes with a evaluation form.
The document, form 42B, does exist in real life — albeit as an application form for the cancellation of removal for a non-permanent resident in the United States. This is most likely coincidental. Nevertheless, the effort has to be lauded, especially considering you can actually fill the PDF digitally. Everyone knows what a nightmare setting one of those up is.
The Shape on the Ground starts as what appears to be a first-person adventure game set in a dark town. Your goal is to find a number of stages. Once you approach a stage, two-dimensional puppets play a short scene and the game asks you what you see.
After giving one of three possible answers, you move on to the next stage. Once you’ve visited all of them, it is time for the evaluation. You are rewarded with a short blurb which may or may not tell you something about yourself.
The Shape on the Ground is not particularly long and can be completed in twenty minutes or less. This is probably for the better; if the game was longer, it would outstay its welcome. Nevertheless, it does encourage you to play it multiple times and explore what answers lead to which outcome.
There are no enemies or bottomless pits, no time limit or jumpscare monsters chasing you. This lack of a loss condition puts The Shape on the Ground into the interactive experience category, which was probably the right choice for this kind of game.
For what appears to be an experiment, The Shape on the Ground looks quite appealing. The town has some colour and the stages and shadow-play puppets look excellent. A blur filter blurs out everything outside your immediate reach, which may put off some players.
Is The Shape on the Ground worth playing? It is most certainly interesting. As it is freely available and can be completed in a matter of minutes, anyone curious should give it a go. Maybe you will uncover deep, dark secrets you did not even know you had. Or maybe this is just a glorified Buzzfeed quiz. If it is the latter, it still looks pretty good.