Shape of the World by developer Hollow Tree Games is like walking through a peaceful dreamscape. It’s not really a game in the more traditional sense: there are no quests to complete, or enemies to slay, only peaceful contemplation through a psychedelic, ever-changing Technicolor world.
The majority of your time spent in Shape of the World will be walking around, which isn’t a bad thing because it is a gorgeous game. The art style is done in a very brightly colored, but detail-minimal aesthetic that makes the entire world dreamlike. There are plants that spring up as you walk, and animals that will approach you, or run when you approach. There is even a little interaction you can have with them, but most (like the giant sky whales) don’t even register your presence.
You can interact with the game world in limited ways, but interaction is still possible—and necessary if you want to progress throughout the entire experience. You can “tap” on objects to see how they react. In The Shape of the World not everything reacts in a way you would expect, for instance: trees disintegrate when you tap on them, and this action actually propels you forward. You can also scatter seeds about, and watch as the trees spring up instantly in front of you.
You can wander aimlessly forever if you’d like, or with enough exploration and experimentation you can find ways to progress the experience forward. A-framed archways serve as sort of waypoints. Walking through these arches will either bring you into a new area, or change the area you’re in significantly. Tapping on certain stones also yield ways forward, with floating walkways that rise up to allow you to walk above the ever-changing, colorful scenery.
Shape of the World does have a fair amount of variations throughout, with sections where you’re swimming, or floating through the air. The only time the peace was broken was towards the end of the experience when things get a little dark, and rainy—but never threatening. This was also around the time I found progression to get a little harder, but if you’re playing Shape of the World with peaceful contemplation as your goal, rushing for the exit isn’t really your priority—you will get there eventually.
Though I enjoyed my time with Shape of the World, it’s hard to recommend without caveats. It’s not like it hides what it sets out to be, and it succeeds in its goals. The whole experience can be finished in less than two hours (less, if you really rush it) but the idea is that Shape of the World is something you can come back to. Possibly to aid meditation, or to just chill and immerse yourself in its gorgeous world.
And that’s the goal, isn’t it? Combined with Shape of the World’s extremely relaxing, somewhat ambient soundtrack, it’s possible to achieve electronic nirvana.
A copy of this game was provided to us for review purposes.