Back in 2012, independent Swedish developer Might and Delight released the puzzle-platformer Pid. While a lot of gamers admired its uniquely imagined world and well-designed mechanics, the consensus was that the game was just too damn punishing.
With that in mind, it’s interesting that Might and Delight’s next move isn’t making another game similar to Pid. Having been released so recently, you’d think that now would have been a good opportunity to right some of the punishing and unforgiving wrongs that some people felt plagued the game. After spending some time with the developer’s upcoming game Shelter, though, I’m both intrigued and appreciative that Might and Delight has decided to try something completely newfangled, yet reassuringly unfamiliar.
Might and Delight calls Shelter an “original emotional experience”, and while some may accuse that statement of sounding somewhat pretentious, both of those adjectives ring true.
Shelter puts you in the role of a badger responsible for watching over your litter of five cubs. You’re tasked with feeding, protecting, and safely guiding them throughout the game’s levels. You’ll have to feed them plants and frogs, all the while protecting them from threats like lurking hawks, raging fires, and swirling rivers.
The real kicker, and where the aforementioned “emotion” comes in, is that you can permanently lose a cub. Towards the end of the game’s first level, you’re faced with the first threat to your children – a hawk. Although the game has a very light tutorial, mostly focusing on controls and simple mechanics, it never mentions that one of your cubs can be killed off so quickly (which is to the game’s benefit). This omission forced me to learn the fragility of my cub’s life the hard way. As I was galloping through the field, a tactic that I thought would lead me and my children to safety, I heard a piercing scream. I panned the camera around, and soon realized I was down to four cubs. I felt a sharp jolt of disappointment as I realized what had just occurred.
Moments like these seem to be littered throughout Shelter. When you run into something that poses a danger to your children, you’ll try your damnedest to overcome that obstacle with as little damage as possible.
The segments in between the environmental dangers are a great chance to plod through the levels that Might and Delight has set up and ponder Shelter’s unique visual style. The game is built on the Unity engine, a toolset that’s popular in the independent scene and not necessarily known for its bleeding-edge visuals.
While Shelter doesn’t impress much technically, its art design is a unique departure. Mostly everything in the environment looks patterned and blocky, but it works here. Shelter’s rough-around-the-edges look compliments its simple game play and draws more focus to the relationship that you forge with your cubs.
Feeding, protecting, and guiding your cubs to safety is the thing Shelter most wants to emphasize, and it nails down these aspects perfectly. Both the act of, and feedback from your cubs is surprisingly satisfying when you are successful in parenting them.
If this satisfaction can persist throughout the game and offer a payoff in some emotional way, Shelter promises to be something worth playing – and very unique – when it’s launched on Steam (after maneuvering its way through Steam Greenlight) later this month.
This preview is based on a preview build for the PC version of Shelter developed by Might and Delight.