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Shape of the World review for PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC


Platform: PS4
Also on: Xbox One, Switch, PC
Publisher: Hollow Tree Games
Developer: Hollow Tree Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E

Shape of the World is…something.

Honestly, I barely even know how to begin to describe Shape of the World, so deciding whether or not I I liked it seems like it’s about twelve steps from where I’m at right now. It’s a first-person wanderer, I guess? Except as you wander, you’re also swimming…or, alternatively, you’re walking through a world where whales can fly? And sometimes you can sort of fly? I don’t know. It’s all very confusing.

This, I guess/suspect is kind of the point. Shape of the World is an unabashedly artsy game, and art is supposed to make you think. If you can walk away from a game where the world unfolds and takes shape around you, where you bounce off of rocks and blobby creatures and create stairways to heaven by hitting certain rocks, and where the colours run the gamut of the whole colour spectrum, and just say, “Enh, it was pretty linear and obvious”, then that would probably be a pretty big failure on the part of the developers. For me to come away from Shape of the World feeling dazed and confused means, I think, that Hollow Tree Games achieved their main objective.

Or maybe not? It’s also possible that Shape of the World was supposed to be have some kind of deep message, but I was too busy focusing on reaching the next triangle on the horizon that marked the entrances into the next stages that I missed the point entirely.

Or, hey, maybe it’s a little of both: Shape of the World probably is intended to have a message, but the developers themselves never quite knew what it was supposed to be, and the resulting confusion comes through loud and clear in their game.

Or maybe I’m just overthinking all of it. Whatever the explanation, here’s what I know for sure: Shape of the World looks amazing. There aren’t too many games that make full use of the colour palette available to them, so to see one that does can be pretty breathtaking in places. Likewise, it controls really well. As Journey showed half a decade ago, the key to an artsy exploration game is making movement feel fluid and graceful, and you definitely feel both of those things here.

Anything beyond that, though? That’s where things get a little murky. Shape of the World may be a genius work of art, or it may be a bunch of pretty nothing, or it may fall somewhere in between those two extremes. If you can get it for the right price, it’s probably worth checking it out to decide where, exactly, you fall on that scale, because I can barely decide for me, let alone anyone else.

Hollow Tree Games provided us with a Shape of the World PS4 code for review purposes.

Grade: B+