Shelter 2 - Review
Shelter 2 - Review
Shelter 2 should have been one of those rare interactive experiences that move as well as entertain, but well...
Posted: 03/31/15 | Category: Review | Developer: Might and Delight | Publisher: Might and Delight | Platform: Linux, Windows, Mac

Genre: Survival Adventure
Release date: March 9, 2015

Shelter 2 should have been one of those rare interactive experiences that moves as well as entertains, but just isn't. It toys with your emotions, seducing you with an intro that's both dreamy and tension-filled, promises a game that's as unconventional as it is artistic, and then throws that promise to the winds.

Shelter 2 represents the second try by developers Might and Delight to pull off a wildlife-centric survival/adventure, the first being 2013's aptly named Shelter. Both games cast players as a mother animal—a badger in the first game and a lynx in the second—and in both, players are tasked with looking after a litter of babies. Players and critics dinged Shelter for several things, most significantly an unclear rule set and short playing time. Unfortunately, the design team seems to have ignored those criticisms as Shelter 2 exhibits the same defects.

The game starts well enough, with an artistic sequence showing the mother lynx outrunning a pack of wolves and being led by the stars to a warm and secure den. Had the entire game been like this magical beginning, Shelter 2 would have been a knockout. As it is, once the intro is over, all semblance of structure disappears, leaving you to figure out where the fun is.

The problems begin with the minimalist interface. Clearly, Might and Delight didn't want the UI to mar the beauty of the game, and I get that; but the downside of that decision is that players end up clicking, keyboarding and running around aimlessly, not knowing what to do. The designers seem to think objectives are unnecessary, assuming players' natural instincts would tell them what steps they should take to survive in the wild. 

Instead of objectives or tutorials, you get the occasional pop-up message along with a map filled with obscure symbols in which “you are here” markers fail to clarify the direction in which you're facing. It's hard to tell where you're going, and since there's no way to tell if your babies are hungry or well-fed, or how fast time is passing, it's all too easy to end up with a litter of dead cubs. The argument for this approach could be that Shelter 2 reflects nature's innate unpredictability and brutality. Fair enough, but in the context of a game, it just feels unfair.

Shelter 2 does provide a stamina gauge for the mother lynx, an ability to sense when prey is near, and a menu that inexplicably tracks how many leaves, feathers and other forest debris the mother has picked up. You're meant to collect these things, but why? Just how many lynx hoarders are there in the wild?

Collectively, these issues work together to make Shelter 2 an alternately baffling and dull experience. However, the game does have a few good aspects. The illustrative graphics and vibrant palette make the game seem like walking through an abstract painting, and its atmospheric music infuses every scene with mood and emotion. As mentioned before, the intro uses these very effectively to set up a touching wildlife narrative; it's too bad the rest of the game doesn't do the same.

Because of its significant flaws and short (2 hour) playing time, Shelter 2 comes off as less of a real game and more of an unfinished prototype. Had Might and Delight given more thought to the overall experience, considered its pacing, and given it structure, it could have been a real indie standout. As it is, it plays like an ambitious but half-baked student project.

Grade: C-
Interesting, distinctive vector graphics
Atmospheric soundtrack
+ Dreamy, moving intro
Inadequate tutorial and objectives
Too-abstract minimalist interface  
Insufficient player feedback
Pointless collection mechanic  
Too-short playing time for the money
System Requirements
OS: Windows XP SP2
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E4500 @ 2.2 GHz or AMD Athlon 64 X2 5600+ @ 2.8 GHz
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: GeForce 240 GT or Radeon HD 6570 - 1024 MB (1 gig)
DirectX: Version 9.0
Hard Drive: 2 GB available space
OS: OS X version Leopard 10.5.8, Snow Leopard 10.6.3, or later
Processor: 2.6 GHz single core
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: OpenGL 2.0 compatible video card with 256 MB share or dedicated RAM (ATI or NVIDIA)
Hard Drive: 2 GB available space
Specials from Digital Download
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