Shelter takes players into a quiet journey through the woods as a badger and its trailing pack of cubs. This secluded stroll quickly turns sour, and protecting the youngsters through a trek across a perilous forest becomes the main priority.
While the game has little narrative force, and a limited tutorial explaining only a few advanced maneuvers, the information to succeed players learn, and are not told; and helps create a more intimate experience that parallels the parental instincts in both animals and people. The game also features no HUD, and only two primary buttons besides the movement keys.
Shelter is a prime example of a simple survival horror that creates an emotional experience through its gameplay. As soon as you dig up a carrot or catch a frogs, the children dance in joy, circling the parent awaiting approval for the necessary food to survive. Without stopping from time to time to collected food for your cubs, they will succumb to fatigue, and then are unable to continue on without first being fed. In later levels keeping everyone on par becomes more and more problematic.
Despite the large open forest levels Shelter does move in a linear progression form one level to another after reaching a single designated point. This usually works well for the designer, because they can pace specific events to occur indefinitely with succession, and can also help properly pace the amount of resources necessary for they player, while still keeping them in check. Music is an important reason for expressing the proper mood to player and the distinct visuals of each helps to create the tone of each level. Players quickly learn what to expect by what they hear, and how they should feel by the use of color and fog on the screen.
The game world’s well textured environments are fun to romp around, especially in the earlier levels. The paper-mache looking graphics keep help keep the innocence in nature, contrasted by the hunt and be hunted lifestyle of the inhabiting creatures. When taking a closer look at the predatory bird’s shadow, it resembles an insignia or an emblem. Not the usual silhouette shape we would notice if we walked outside. Perhaps this instance breaks away from the norm to help players recognize the enemy’s significance, and not just its place.
Defending the little tykes is no easy task, and the journey would not be a memorable one without a few bumps along the way. It is important to tread carefully, yet wander too long and the children will be likely to starve, and the as responsibility of each cub is compromised one by one the player cannot help but feel responsible.
This review notices Shelter’s harder connection to the catharsis of such a tragedy, versus a TV show or perhaps a novel, and some may see the game’s inevitable unraveling as a punishment for involvement in a strange indifference. After the utter defeat of all this gamers offspring there was a glint of freedom that allowed him to explore the game more, after accepting the bloodline had perished, he was no longer burdened.
Nevertheless the game delivers a unique, “quietly untold” experience that will stay in the memories of anyone willing to give it a chance. What happened, how they went about the forest, and where it all ended.