Quick Look – Shapez

I’m diving back into Shapez, a game I played about 10 hours of back in August of 2020, as part of Unwise Owl’s group review of the Humble Choice for September 2022. Both the base game and the Puzzle DLC are included, with a MSRP of $14.98 for the package.

When I’m playing games for fun, I am not an optimizer. I know for a lot of people finding the most efficient way to play is part – if not all – of the fun of gaming. I am not wired that way. Knowing this about myself has mostly kept me away from the type of games where optimization seems very much to be the point of the game, despite the fact that I am drawn to precisely the sort of puzzle-light game play that automation games tend to excel at.

One of the things that initially drew me to Shapez (formerly known as Shapez.io) is that there are no real consequences to getting it wrong. There are no real limitations on how you build at any given time. Initially, you get extractors, which pull out the shapes, and conveyor belts. Extract the shape onto the belt, extend the belt into the hub, and wait for the numbers to click upwards to unlock the next mechanic. Yep, the beginning of this game is exceedingly simple, and you might even think you’re playing an idle game. I promise, that feeling won’t last long.

However, new mechanics are doled out a pretty decent pace – not so fast you’re likely to get overwhelmed, but also not so slowly as to bore the player. Each time you fulfill an order to the hub, you’ve completed a level, and each level will ask for even more of a more complex shape. If you’re not the type to click buttons for the sake of clicking buttons, you might miss out on the secondary set of goals, which you will want to work on in order to upgrade the different parts of your factory.

You don’t ever receive any kind of quest or notification for your potential upgrades, but clicking on the star in the upper right hand corner of the screen will show you what you need to send to the hub in order to unlock more efficient technology. When an upgrade is available to you, the star will turn red with a number in it indicating the amount of upgrades you’ve qualified for. You can play for quite awhile ignoring this entire mechanic, but eventually, the level quest is going to not be for a discreet number of shapes, but for a number of a particular shape per second, and that will be a whole lot less painful if you’ve been keeping up with your upgradeables.

One of the things that makes this game great for folks not too familiar with automation-style games is that there are almost no limits on the player. There is no money, so mistakes don’t cost you anything but time. You can keep revising your production areas and conveyor belts to increase production or decrease wasted space. There are not an overwhelming number of tools, but there’s enough variety in the requested shapes to keep things interesting for a while.

Since I’ve played last, several new levels have been added (which I still have yet to get to in this playthrough, unfortunately), as well as the paid Puzzle DLC. I expected to enjoy the DLC as much, if not more, as the base game, but it fell a little bit flat for me. The “tutorial” section is actually the entirety of the developer created content for this DLC, and consists of 20 pretty easy puzzles.

However, if you really like optimization puzzles – either playing them or creating them – this DLC might be perfect for you. It seems pretty well populated with user created puzzles, so you could potentially get quite a few hours out of this additional content. If you wanted to try your hand at creating puzzles, then it’s definitely worth the price.

While I have already more than gotten my money’s worth out of Shapez and I would highly recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in factory building or optimization games, this is definitely not the game to purchase this month’s Humble Choice for. The base game had dipped as low as $3.99, with the DLC having a best price of $2.99, so a savvy shopper could already have this in their library for less than $7. However, if you’re on the fence, this is precisely the type of solid indie game that might push you to pick up the bundle.

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