Last Shape Standing: Dodge, Adapt, Survive
Great for bite-sized gaming sessions
When it comes to controls, elegance is the watchword. The idea is to keep things simple enough that the player can quickly pick up on the game while still keeping things open enough for variety in design. Do it right, and you can even jump between genres - just like in today's game.
Last Shape Standing is a very simple game at heart. It is an avoider - white objects are safe to touch while red objects cause damage, so dodge everything that's red for as long as you can manage. Easy to understand, even at a glance.
What sets this one apart is its wide range of game modes. Last Shape Standing isn't a single game so much as it is a collection of minigames - 35 levels as of this writing, though most are unavailable at the outset. The levels play out in random order, proceeding for a set period of time that's usually between one and two minutes.
The scenarios vary a lot, both in terms of design and mechanics. Most of them are about what you'd expect from an avoider - you maneuver in free space with only a short dash to aid you - but others change things up in more dramatic ways. Some feature platformer mechanics, restricting your vertical movement but giving you a jump. Others require button taps to keep in midair, while some keep free movement but swap out the dash for some other ability, such as a weapon.
These changes aren't merely aesthetic trickery, either. You might follow up a classic avoider level with one that has you dodging boxes being dumped into a Tetris-like gutter, hopping on buttons to maneuver a tram car through a factory, or dodging between squares to answer quiz questions. The style varies as well, with some of the scenarios being recognizable parodies of well-known mobile, arcade, and indie games.
It will take some to access all of the levels, as most are initially locked. They can be unlocked using coins earned through gameplay. Each levels rewards a set number of coins based on its difficulty, with an additional 10% rewarded at the end of the run for each full minute the player managed to survive. The levels are found in a playlist where they can be freely enabled and disabled between runs. Aside from excluding levels that one just doesn't like, this also allows the player to tailor the difficulty - only enable easy levels for a casual run that's good for grinding coins, or enable the hardest ones for a real challenge.
This isn't just for your benefit, by the way. While the above concerns only the single player mode, Last Shape Standing allows for up to four players at a time via local multiplayer. I'd go so far as to say that the game is designed around multiplayer - there are even a few coop levels that are only available with at least two players in the game.
Overall, Last Shape Standing is a punchy game that's great for short sessions, but it does have its flaws. The game is very similar to the microgame collections that pop up from time to time, though the levels last a lot longer than in most titles of that type. They can overstay their welcome, especially once you've played them several times. I imagine that the pacing would work a bit better for the multiplayer mode - length doesn't mean as much when you're only goal is to outlast everyone else.
Overlong levels aside, Last Shape Standing is still an engaging title that's great for short periods. It's also still in early access so there's time yet to file down the rough edges, and I expect that there will be more content to come. I recommend it to anyone looking for something they can jump in and out of when they need a quick gaming fix.
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