We have YouTube to thank for The Shape of Things. No, it isn’t endorsed by a channel or an online personality – it owes its existence to the popularity of ASMR videos. It’s not much of a surprise to find that the developers recommend playing with headphones. The Switch is also the ideal platform for this kind of thing. Playing on Xbox or PlayStation, while sitting on a sofa and meters away from the TV, wouldn’t have provided the experience intended.
The Shape of Things, quite simply, presents you with a 3D jumbled-up object – with themes including cooking, transport, medieval fantasy, underwater, and dozens more – which must be made whole by rotating, sliding, and either stretching or shrinking the out-of-place pieces. Objects are usually chopped into five or six unique shapes, one of which will be on a fixed axis – giving an ideal starting point. Every action is backed by pleasing clicking and whirring sound effects, accompanied by a loud and satisfying clunk upon aligning the final piece. Then it’s onto the next puzzle, with each theme containing ten objects to unjumble.
As a chilled experience, there’s no grounds for failure. The backdrops also play a key part in generating a relaxing atmosphere, with a bathroom scene featuring water splashes and drips, while a kitchen has the clatter of pots and pans as background noises. Wildlife features too, with the underwater scene home to large fish, and the great outdoors starring a lively frog.
To progress, new themes (or worlds, if you prefer) must be purchased from a Gashapon capsule machine. They cost seven coins each, with one coin awarded for each completed puzzle. Your ever-growing capsule rack is found in the hub – a quaint study, that has its own ASMR features such as a choice of seasons and a twinkling ceiling-mounted star constellation that’s linked to your progress.
Despite some similarities, The Shape of Things can’t really be compared to something like a Picross game, as you’re never going to be left scratching your head at any point. Some objects are more jumbled than others, and the occasional object may have small parts to align, but generally, the same process can be applied to every puzzle. Curveballs are few, and the only major problem you may run into is accidentally stretching a piece too wide, resulting in an overlap.
This is a game asking for your time and patience only, rather than deep thinking and speedy reactions. If you dedicate yourself to seeing every object the developers have modeled and muddled, you’re looking at a modest runtime of around 3-4 hours. Perhaps longer if you decide to chill in the hub and obtain every in-game achievement. Much like the same way you wouldn’t blitz through a sudoku or crossword book in one go, this is something best played for 30 minutes at a time.
If you purchase The Shape of Things knowing it’s more of an interactive plaything than a bona fide puzzle game, it shouldn’t disappoint. Usually, if a game causes you to fall asleep it’s seen as a bad thing, yet here we are in 2023 with something that pretty much guarantees it.
Hyper Three Studio’s The Shape of Things is out August 31st on Switch.