Shape of the World is a new title from Hollow Tree Games that was successfully funded through Kickstarter in July of 2015. Described as an exploration game where the world grows around the player. Shape of the World offers that, but not much else. The length of this review actually reflects that, as it only took about 2 hours for me to complete the game. And while a short game isn’t always a bad one, I can’t say that I enjoyed my time with this one.
Shape of the World begins in a very minimalistic way, with no instructions, no UI, and nothing but a white void surrounding the player. Well, a white void with a large triangle in the distance, that is. Getting closer to the triangle adds more detail to your surroundings, and stepping though it changes the landscape drastically, as well as adds a lot of color. This is where the game begins.
I’m using the word “game” there very generously, because Shape of the World offers almost nothing more than visuals and music. As a player, you are mainly given two different actions. The first of which allows the planting of seeds that instantly grow into various trees. It is neat to see for sure, but after playing for awhile I found that planting the trees had absolutely no point. They don’t effect the environment, except visually, and they don’t effect gameplay either. Halfway through the game I just stopped planting them because I had no reason to, and seeing them spring to life got old very quickly.
The other button is for interacting with the world. But, much like planting seeds, it didn’t see much use from me. The only real thing to interact with are collections of white rocks that, when all are touched, create a path of stairs to a new area. It isn’t so much an interact button as it is a “use this to activate the rock stairs” button. It could also be used to destroy trees, but there really wasn’t any point in that either.
Shape of the World, however, isn’t all bad. The music is pretty good, and the visuals can be gorgeous as well. The game uses an interesting art style that lacks detail in favor of vibrant colors. The end result can sometimes even resemble art, and is certainly unique.
Unfortunately, music and visuals are not enough to save Shape of the World. Not when the player simply runs around and touches rocks for 2 hours. It is a game that tries very hard to be the next Journey, but lacks the beauty, gameplay, and strong message of Journey. To be clear, I have no problem with “walking simulators” as long as they bring something else to the table, like Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture did with its touching story. But Shape of the World not only lacks a story, it also lacks coherence of any kind.
To put it simply, this is not a good game. Shape of the World does a lot to try and trick players into thinking there is more substance then there is, but it all falls apart right out of the gate. Maybe I just don’t get it. Maybe there are people out there that will enjoy this game. But I am not one of those people.