Shape of the World is a rather strange addition of the library of walking simulators. It’s not story-driven, which is the case with most walking sims, and neither is it a puzzle-solving endeavor. Debuting studio Hollow Tree Games’ aim here is to eliminate the narrative component and shift the focus towards stimulating the player’s senses. As such, it’s an experience that steers away from conventions and doesn’t ask you to draw a conclusion.
The minimalistic experience begins with no prelude, as you find yourself in the midst of what appears to be a dense yet surreal looking forest. From here, the game takes several shifts in art style as you make progress. There’s no right or wrong path to take, and no dead ends to encounter. The path ahead of you is procedurally generated, and your surroundings appear to bloom with life as you walk around.
Interactions with the world are as minimalistic as the game’s aesthetic. The right trigger allows you to get in tune with the vegetation, the fauna, and the rocks, occasionally leading to the emergence of unearthly staircases that lead to the next area. Meanwhile, the left trigger lets you throw seeds, which you collect during the course of the game, to their corresponding plants in order to make rapid progress to the area ahead. These interactions tend to get repetitive and boring quite fast, and there’s no meaningful incentive to triggering them either.
Stimulating the senses can’t be accomplished without an immersive audiovisual experience, and Shape of the World certainly shines in this department. Both the audio and visuals complement each other, right down the shifts in art style.
Shape of the World is a game about personal connection and interpretation. It’s more of an artsy journey that plays to your senses rather than being a goal-oriented adventure. There’s no underlying philosophical theme or motive. The game is as abstract as it gets. It’s a short experience that may or may not evoke a feeling of relaxation and calmness in you.
If the game sounds really strange, it’s because it certainly is. At the end of the day, it may not even qualify as a video game. If you’re looking for a deep and engaging gameplay experience, this is not it, nor does it want to be. Though, even within the spectrum of walking simulators, Shape of the World, it comes off as unorthodox. It’s more of a digital representation of a mood changing medicine, provided that it manages to resonate with your mindset and sensitivity. Despite being short, it can easily start to feel lackluster if it fails to develop a mood-altering connection with you. As such, it’s more of a hit or miss.
Shape of the World Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: Shape of the World is a serene and surrealist first-person explorer. You’ll travel through dream-like forests, aquatic caves and peaceful shores accompanied by psychedelic wildlife.
Despite being short, Shape of the World can easily start to feel lackluster if it fails to develop a mood altering connection with you. As such, it’s more of a hit or miss.