Shapes of Gray Review

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The title stole my subheading.

Shapes of Gray
Platform: PC
Developer: Secret Tunnel Entertainment
Publisher: Secret Tunnel Entertainment

I normally avoid talking about myself when reviewing a game but in this case, a brief digression may help. I, like many people my age have a lot less game time than I used to. This is mostly due to family and work commitments. As such, I’ve found that the game time I do have is increasingly filled by short, simple games that I can stop at start in short bursts. I still voluntarily sacrifice sleeping hours for one or two blockbusters every year but this is becoming rarer and certainly not by choice. Shapes of Gray is just the kind of game I can make time for.

Shapes of Gray is both aesthetically and mechanically simple. The visuals are made of shaded objects that move around what looks like a radar screen complete with simulated scan lines. The small shape you control can move and attack other shapes which also have their own unique attacks. The object is simply to clear the circular arena before the time (or your health) runs out. After a certain number of levels there is a boss encounter and this continues right through the fifty initial levels in the game.

Like many great games, the simplicity in the presentation belies the challenge. Shapes of Gray is unrelenting and seemingly unforgiving at first. Each level is short but progression is immediate and the instant one group of shapes is destroyed, another group will appear. The placement is also randomised which makes vigilance a necessity. I found the game initially very tough and wasn’t making it more than a few levels in before seeing the ‘Game Over’ screen. This never put me off and I found myself going straight back in to play again.

There are checkpoints after each boss encounter but even having to repeat previously cleared levels became practice for further progression. The only break you’ll get are the waves filled with easier enemies every once in a while. The entire game can easily be completed in a sitting but getting to the point where that can happen takes a lot of time.

Shapes of Gray has controller support but I initially played using a keyboard and mouse configuration but later used a controller. I preferred the controller overall but both styles are responsive. Every time I failed, I knew it was my fault and if anything, I sometimes had things go in my favour when they shouldn’t have.

When I first cleared the initial fifty levels I sat back in my chair equally exhausted and satisfied. It had probably taken less than an hour but it felt a lot longer. Once the initial fifty levels are cleared a menu is unlocked with a more challenging set of levels and an arcade mode for the mode already passed.

Shapes of Gray requires both defensive and offensive play. Observing the patterns and watching for openings is necessary for some enemies while aggressive and immediate attacks are ideal for others. Time is always a factor and it often becomes essential to make risky attacks when time is short. This is especially true of the second mode with a new variety of enemies including ones that retreat from attacks to suck up your time.

Shapes of Gray is not a lengthy or deep game but it is neither designed or priced as one either. It is a solid arcade-style game designed for quick play and can be enjoyed from anywhere to fifteen minutes to an hour at a time. As of writing, I’m still delving into the extra modes and it will certainly be one I come back to from time to time. If you like to games like Super Hexagon, Waveform and Osmos then Shapes of Gray will likely appeal to you.

Disclosure: A review copy of Shapes of Gray was provided by the developer.

3 Stars

September, 2015

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