Shelter – Review (PC)

In a gaming market overflowing with the same regurgitated, repackaged, and re-branded offerings it sometimes feels like the only true originality comes from the indie sector. Some ideas, perhaps, stray too far from the “norm” or are too “out there” to be considered for publication by the major players in the industry. Instead these avant-garde titles are released by fledgling independent studios looking to carve out a niche and make a name for themselves. The forthcoming Shelter by Might and Delight is one such game.

Shelter puts the player into the paws of a mother badger striving to feed and defend her young from the dangers of the wild. She begins with five defenceless cubs and must guide them through wooded areas, across eagle-stalked fields, and choppy rivers. Kids will be kids though, and you must keep track of the cubs at all times, lest they wander off and be devoured by wandering foxes and eagles.

The premise of Shelter is very basic; each level consists of getting from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’, whilst feeding your young and avoiding any dangers that may be lurking in the wild. Naturally, your young will often become hungry and it will be on you to decide which cub gets to eat. The cub that is most discoloured is most-hungry, but the other cubs may try to get to his food before he can. When food is short you will have to make tough decisions about who eats and who does not – on another note, the excited little jumping the cubs do, as you acquire food, is adorable.
The badgers travel across a number of different terrains and environments as they try to survive. The dense and lush forest is home to abundant food, rivers, and other assorted wildlife. Dangerous river crossings and even wildfires also make an appearance, and provide the player with ample reason to care for and worry about their little cubs.

That’s the great thing about this game; more than once I found myself actively concerned for the cubs I was caring for. Every few moments I’d rotate the camera and count: “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, cubs. Phew”. Losing sight of one of them is a terrifying experience, even more so when you can hear them whimpering as they are being eaten by an unknown assailant. Looking back to see cubs missing is a solemn experience that will stay with you through Shelter’s short runtime.

While the game may be short, it does a lot with the time it has. Environments change often and give way to new play-styles. One moment you will be sneaking up on a fox and encouraging your young to feast on its remains, the next you will all be cowering in fear, trying to escape eagles flying overhead. Things are kept fresh and exciting – and beautiful – throughout.
The low-poly, low res world of Shelter is very visually appealing. Muted green and brown shades are contrasted with vibrant pinks and oranges; the world feels alive and believable, and that is one of the biggest compliments I can give the developers.

The accompanying soundtrack is equally as pretty. Retro Family provide an ambient, sometimes stirring score that goes hand-in-hand with the game’s events, every step of the way.

At just under two hours in length Shelter is a brief but refreshing experience. Sedate gameplay is highlighted with some truly scary moments that will have you thanking your lucky stars that all your cubs are okay, or slamming the table in anger as one of them is snatched away from you. It may not be action-packed or have the “flashiness” of other titles but Might and Delight took a chance on a fresh idea; more than anything, good game or bad (this game is certainly the former), that should be commended.

Shelter is a community-approved Greenlight title and is available on Steam for £6.99