“Ghost factories? Mini camels? Sugar skulls? These things don’t just create themselves, people. Punch your timecard and get busy in the bowels of the Shape Shop. Rotate, flip, and combine the bossman’s pentomino supply into the right configurations, and you just might earn your union card. And you’re out of sick days, but nice try.”
The shapes are made up of pretty colours and the interface is cool enough, but there’s nothing particularly visually exciting on show. Then again, does it really matter with a game like this?
Sound is something that’s very scarce in this game, appearing only in the form of cute tingly sounds when drifting the cursor over the shape selection – playing a different note for each shape – and when the puzzle is completed and you’re treated to a cheeky little jingle depending on how many pieces the puzzle had. The most interesting example of sound in Shape Shop, however, is the relaxing (and almost hypnotising) ‘boiler room’ ambient sounds drifting around the background during play. One time during play, I closed my eyes, focused on the ambience and actually felt quite at ease and secure. It’s definitely way more than a shape-rotating puzzler, my dears. It’s a meditation session…
The practicality concept is simple enough: pick a shape, rotate it to your liking and place it on the board. That’s the simple bit, whereas the mental process for solving the puzzles is so fantastically complex, visual and damn right unexplainable that if you take just a couple of seconds to reflect on what you’ve accomplished upon completing each puzzle, you can’t help but smile and think, “Hey… I did that!” The puzzles are simple in terms of the simplicity of the shape rotating puzzlery, but in no way is this game a walk in Pentomino Park; some serious thought is needed for the later puzzles in particular, and, while it stretches your mental cogs like bogeys, it never asks for too much which would, in an extreme case, turn the game into an awful sigh-inducing bore, but instead it remains a very satisfying puzzler throughout. Furthermore, there are SO many different combinations of how the pieces fit together just incorrectly that it becomes a case of dismantling your creation, or moving some pieces around, and trying some new placements until you conquer the puzzle. Pure poetry, my dears. Pure poetry. There is, however, one thing that I simply cannot forgive the game for: the lack of a redo function. There’s an undo function, but if you change your mind, the game simply doesn’t allow you to revert back to the previous placement which is a bit naff. Still, it gives those fingers a smidgen more exercise, eh?
Shape Shop is as accessible as they come, my dears, though the flip and rotational controls will take a wee bit of getting used to for new players. Don’t worry – they soon become second nature. Other than that, it’s a perfect example of a jump-straight-in game. You can most definitely call it an extremely passive, laid back game with absolutely no frustration or “ARGH!!!” moments. AND there isn’t a time limit. Sure, your total time for solving each puzzle is clocked up and makes up your ‘Time Taken’ total, but that’s all part of the fun, which brings me to…
HUGE replayability right here, my dears. The only thing stopping this game from getting top marks for replayability is the lack of online leaderboards, which would have added a sweet competitive edge to the game. Hooplehead & Co. (as obscure as you may be), if you’re reading this, then PLEASE consider adding an online leaderboard to Shape Shop in a future update if that is at all possible. It’ll be for the good of all mankind, I promise!
If you’re a-shoppin’ for some shapes, then this is the place to go, my dears. While the lack of online leaderboards dampens the replay value, somewhat, the ‘Time Taken’ totals give the player something to frantically rotate those pretty pieces for in a self-competitive kind of way. And, instead of being just a puzzler, there’s a slight sense of humour AND something of an art show injected in there too, in the form of the level names and their respective board designs. Here’s one not very funny example (thanks to the lack of decent screenshots on the webbybytes), but I promise you that they most definitely get better as you delve into the later levels. There’s one level called “Acorn” where the puzzle board is in the shape of – not a caterpillar riding a chicken – but an acorn! Well, squares joined up to resemble an acorn outline, but not even a squirrel would be able to tell the difference, my dears. The developers have a cheeky sense of humour! Humour and naughty puzzle board designs aside – and they’re damn brilliant – you will most definitely have a great time with this game, my dears. I keep stressing the simplicity of the game itself, but the execution is damn near fantastic, bar the odd hiccup mentioned above. I’m a big fan of puzzlers, and I’ve seen some right shitty attempts at them in my time, but Shape Shop struck a major chord with me and I have no doubts that it will stay in your memories for a good long while too. Oh, Hooplehead & Co., where art thou?
– Seriously, one hundred and eleven fantastic puzzles for just 69p? YES, PUH-LEASE!!!
– One of the best examples of trial-and-error puzzling on XBLA
– There’s something ever so relaxing and passive about the gentle tingly sounds and ambient boiler room noises
– No leaderboards
Buy, trial or avoid?
BUY, BUY, BUY! Don’t worry, my dears, I’m not trying to sell you a baby burger with spunky coke on the side. NOPE! This game is an absolutely unquestionably definite buy for both fans of puzzlers and those just looking for a chance to exercise their brain away from the toils of monotony and Call of Duty.
Final score: 8/10