It’s difficult to imagine what being a badger would be like, and for a lot of us it’s also difficult to know what it would be like to be a mother. After playing Shelter, you might feel like you experienced both for a few, fleeting moments.
Shelter immediately throws you into your role as matriarch to a small clan of badgers, who coo and scratch away as you waddle and scavenge about a cozy cavern. After what will hopefully be a brief problem solving experience and nursing one of your young to health, you’re let loose into Shelter’s beautiful wilds and the game truly begins.
There is very little direction given to the player, but this is part of the experience. Through a couple of visual cues explaining basic controls and mechanics, a beautiful, beautiful world becomes yours. Shelter wastes no time in luring you into a living painting and reassuring you with unassuming-but-charming lullaby. Everything about the way you, the environment and your tiny omnivore family move in this world feels like it was choreographed.
Shelter is an interesting name for this title. A few truths become evident to you as you explore, and one of them is that a lot of your time is spent playing the metaphorical role of Shelter yourself. While there are moments where you seek out actual physical respite from the wilds, your cubs depend on you for sustenance, direction and sometimes comfort from things that go bump in the night and it is for this that the title is suiting.
Developer: Might and Delight
Platform: PC / Mac
Food for the omnivore diet is everywhere… growing out of the ground, hanging off trees and scurrying through the bushes. Whether you pluck it from the ground, knock it out of a tree or quickly and ferociously kill it, food gathering is what you spend most of your time doing. It’s not enough to just gather it and let your cubs at it, however. A good matriarch needs to make sure that all her cubs are healthy and not getting shoved aside as the greedy of the clan gorge themselves. When being cautious, she can host the foodstuffs in her maw while the young form a semicircle around her and she can feed the cub most in need. Worth noting, and perhaps a nod to the thought about being a mother, is that you’re never required to feed yourself… it is just the cubs who need to eat, and they will do so ceaselessly.
As you advance through Shelter, it becomes apparent that a story is being told through stages, each fairly linear but sizable and containing new sights, sounds and a new set of game challenges that increase slightly in difficulty and tension. What also becomes apparent, unfortunately, is how quickly you advance through the game. There is also nothing distinctly challenging about Shelter, which only enhances the feeling that the game is very brief.
Shelter *is* a brief experience, and anyone who is incensed by the idea of investing in a game they end up defeating very quickly should possibly avoid it. Before playing Shelter, I admittedly had been anticipating a less linear experience, and something of a free-roaming adventure of some difficulty that could be played over many hours. What was experienced instead was an hour of gameplay with little challenge that had an emotional impact on me. As brief as it may be, Shelter’s brevity is a vehicle for emotional and masterful minimalist story telling.
Support the developers, and the website, by purchasing Shelter for $9.99