Shapist is a block sliding puzzle game. That might not sound sexy to you, but it is a game that I have come to enjoy. It was passed my way in the darkness of night many weeks ago. I find myself still being drawn back to this minimal block sliding game. Perhaps it’s because of the games deliberate push back on common mobile gaming nuisances. Or perhaps its because it takes one of the oldest forms of puzzle games I’ve ever been acquainted with and finds a meaningful way to translate that to touch devices.
I enjoy Shapist for it’s distinct lack of star ratings, hi-scores, tutorials, time constraints, and failure states. In many ways it’s an austere game. Not looking to induce the standard addled mind through incessant and meaningless positive affirmations towards it’s players with the constant plea to share this… please please share this with your friends. It doesn’t reek of mechanics that insure seven day retention or maximize user K Factor. It is a game, meant to be played, by you.
It is also unashamed of it’s roots of humble sliding block games. What happens when you strip away all of the trite that has becomes the usual affairs of mobile gaming? Well we remember that games are sometimes toys, or in other words, its okay to find pleasure in the simple act of playing.
Shapist teaches throughout the use of language or words. The entire game is taught through interaction, and due to it’s touch based controls it is all rather intuitive. The goals are rather obvious but the devil is finding the solution. This style of puzzle is often referred to as “Puzzles as Riddles” which often be frustrating to players. I have often railed against the dubious “Puzzles as Riddles” format, however in this format, it doesn’t bother me. Moreover it seems to me the pleasure of Shapist is in the interactions that remind me of when these used to be physical puzzles. The added game physics of springs and magnets do much to remind me of what it meant to tinker and toy with puzzles like this of my youth. There is a visceral satisfaction in intuitive tapping and feeling/hearing/seeing the magnets pop apart.
There are more puzzles than I have completed. And recently they pushed out an update which added more puzzles, bringing the total to 75. One of the key marketing lines I’ve seen highlighted on the games website is, “(it’s)… Just you and 75 puzzles to solve.” I enjoy this rather lonesome equivocation because it is as if a friend put their hand on my shoulder and said, “..sometimes you need to do things for you.” I often find myself blurry eyed late at night pulling out this game as a means to quiet my mind. Puzzle games have a unique calming quality to them. They task the mind just enough to make one forget or replace those thoughts that often keeps one up at night.
All of this is to say that Shapist is a unique game in that it takes something old and well know and makes it desirable again. Through its own robust touch interaction and melancholy soundtrack I find myself plucking away at a puzzle in some form of meditation. This is then all punctuated by the satisfaction of finally finding the solution to a puzzle and sliding the blocks in their destined and correct positions. I would also be foolish to omit the games visual aesthetics is something that I adore. I’m a sucker for well crafted and executed minimalism. But as all of this is sewn together it creates an experience that has seemingly reached me at a time when I needed something like it. I needed something to occupy my mind but demand nothing from me, to have no expectations of me as a person or a player.
The game was made by Ori Takemura who designed the puzzles and visuals, Dmitry Kurilchenko who was the programmer, and music by Jorge Vinals. It is available on iOS and Andriod, you can get more details from the games website at www.playshapist.com.