Shelter is a new theory to a game. Something a little different but not out of the ordinary. If you’ve ever caught yourself watching your pet and wonder, “What a life? Must be nice to be feed all the time. Running all day, not having to worry about work.” Shelter lets you live out that life and get a taste of what that might feel like. You are dropped into the wild and must tend to yourself and a family of badger cubs.
Yes, Badger cubs, the games starts out with your family hibernating in a cave. Upon waking up you see four little badger cubs staring at you and one that is a different color who looks to be sleeping. Upon closer inspection you realize the cub is actually sick and you are to be helping said young cub. Not being given any instructions aside from the intuition of using W,A,S,D keys, you begin moving your badger around the cave. As you searching you must find a way of healing the little one, but again are given no instructions. Continuing on down the cave you come across a turnip in the ground (How it grew in a cave is beyond me). As you come up upon the turnip, an image on the top left of the screen shows how to pluck plants from the ground. After pressing the left mouse button you find yourself with a turnip in your mouth. The goal now is to turn around and feed the turnip to the downed badger cub in hopes he was just hungry. So naturally after saving your child from almost certain starvation the next thing to do is walk outside and explore the world, and explore you do.
Shelter is an imagining of what the lower, less exotic animal kingdom is about. Walking the ground floor in search of turnips, radishes, rats, frogs, and trees for apples. As a lowly badger with your cubs, you wander through a very sharp blocky looking world. Trees are more triangular in nature than they are round, patches of grass look more like a blanket with cardboard beneath flattening and pointing off the edges. This is not a representation of a bad games graphics though, but a new way of viewing a world. As with Picasso’s cubist period, Shelter takes a different approach to the super awesome ultra real graphic games we see today. No It won’t be stressing your computer to the limit on frame rate and CPU usage, but I believe the style fits the game. It’s whimsical and subtle and it is relatively easy to understand. Things look different but are easily recognized to anyone with a scintilla of comprehension skill. Sorry, mindless drones need not apply.
Along with a universe that boots up the Parietal and Occipital lobes of the brain, comes the music that adds that extra little sweetener. If you are old enough to know of the story of Peter Rabbit or the non-dialogue plays using instruments to portray emotions and speech, you’ll understand where the music derives its necessity from. It isn’t quite as far as using music to portray the dialogue of the characters, but the emotions the be felt. Music plays soothingly and serene creating a sense of playfulness and safety. Hard strokes and quick paced electric instruments instil and danger and rapidness of other areas. It’s pretty straightforward when you think about it but it is very effective. The game plays on the fact that the mind will construct more ideas than there are actually in the game, and not to mention an overarching tone of guardianship and protection as your badger cubs follow you wherever you go.
Gameplay and controls are a basic, consisting of W,A,S,D for movement, mouse to look, the mouse button for action, and shift to run. Not more goes into playing this game other than surviving. Having to scavenge for food by way of plants or other animals. The natural selection model is definitely in style in this game; only the strong survive, strong and the fast. But the game isn’t just about feeding and walking, no. Surviving is the number one goal. There are hazards that you and you badger family must endure and mother nature is cruel. There are no redos, no reloading and no healing from wounds. If your cubs is attacked by a hawk because it was a second too slow to hide with you, you now must watch as the Hawk takes your pup away into the sky never to be seen again. A hard lesson to learn especially when you are never told of those birds of prey. After the first sudden change of music and the loss of your first born, maybe you will start to understand the world your are gaming in. There are a few other dangers that can throw you for a gaff, but you will now be ready after the loss of one.
I found myself wanting a little more in terms of activity, but it is not a full release. I fully expect there to be more to this title and I am rather excited to see this come out. By no means is it going to change the face of the gaming industry nor will it inspire a new genre of animal-sim games, but what I believe it will do is introduce a game based on reality and common sense. A game that can teach our youth more about a real life cycle and how to solve problems without being instructed by a wizard or to take a rocket launcher to the issue. The game has the potential to be a learning moment; problem solving, empathy, sympathy, and emotional loss. It will inspire a use in the creative and logical part of the brain, tapping both left and right to accomplish and comprehend a goal. Here’s hoping the game does not turn into an ad for environmentalists and the errors of the human species, as it could easily be turned into. From the build I have, it has done a good job of keeping it from going over to the propaganda realm but can easily cross if not properly attuned.
Overall the game was fun and well done, I just hope there is more to come and some more challenges added to keep gamers interested outside of hunting for food and not becoming it. I would purchase the retail version and give it a whirl to see how the dramatic end to this build turned out.
Final build of the game for was provided by the developer for review purposes