There are eleven known species of badgers, an animal closely related to wolverines and otters. In Shelter, you have the opportunity to take on the role of a mother badger (possibly the larger European badger). It is not an easy task to protect five cubs from predators, to feed them small animals, fruits and vegetables, and to safely take them on an odyssey across the forest.
Playability: Out in the wild
Shelter does not provide any tutorial and very little in terms of hints and objectives. How do you feed badger cubs? Which way should the badger family go? Are foxes friendly to badgers? Once you get the hang of the basic game mechanics, Shelter is relatively easy to navigate. But many unanswered questions remain. I wasn’t able to complete the game with five cubs and I’m not certain there are alternative endings. I wasn’t even sure I had completed the game until the credits started rolling...
Annoyance: Wonky camera
In Shelter, you control the mother badger. All cubs just follow you around as best as they can. The third person/animal view is frequently blocked by branches, rocks, trunks and other objects. As the badgers scamper about, it is sometimes difficult to get an overview of the landscape. There’s little clue as to which way the family should travel. There doesn’t seem to be an option to save progress, not even between levels. This is not a major issue as the game can be completed in a short few hours. A bit more material would have given Shelter a longer lifespan.
Beauty: Pastel patchwork
Shelter’s visuals are a colourful pastel patchwork. The graphics may look blocky but they are reminiscent of cubism and post-impressionist collages. The levels have distinct and distinguishable atmospheric mood but form a cohesive artistic whole. The soundtrack is suitably dramatic and keep the badger cubs running. Shelter is both serene (a family badger running around feeding on apples and tubers) and tense (a hawk swooping from the skies).
The Old Video Gamer's Prattle: Cute cubs 70/100 points
You’ve got to be Swedish or at least Scandinavian to come up with a badger game that doesn’t look or feel ridiculous. Imagine going up to a publisher? Wah? No zombies too shoot at? Shelter is an artistically crafted short story with beautiful visual artwork and dramatic musical accompaniment. The camera and controls lack refinement and you’re left out in the wilderness with little explanation. Despite these shortcomings, Shelter is eminently playable and a fresh take on the (animal) survival genre. If you like the pure lines and forms of Scandinavian design, you will enjoy Shelter.
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