The Lost Shapes offers a decent mix of proactive and reactive puzzle gameplay
The Lost Shapes touts itself as a game of “Magic Chess,” but it doesn’t seem like any chess game we’ve ever seen. In fact, Merriam-Webster defines chess as “a game for 2 players each of whom moves 16 pieces according to fixed rules across a checkerboard and tries to checkmate the opponent’s king,” and aside from a similar style of board, The Lost Shapes doesn’t seem to bear any resemblance to that description whatsoever.
That doesn’t mean it’s a bad game, though; we merely have no idea why they are pitching the game as related in such a way to another, and is perfectly capable of standing on its own. Even Star Trek‘s three-dimensional chess is far closer to the original game than The Lost Shapes.
Your goal in The Lost Shapes is to place tiles with different markings on them (horizontal lines, vertical lines, right angles, etc.) to make circles, squares… basically any sort of shape you can imagine so long as its lines connect, enclosing it. All the while, a queue of upcoming tiles proceeds to fill, with the end of your game arriving if you allow it to overflow. Fortunately, you can swap pieces out between the board and the queue as needed.
There are two modes built around this premise. The first, Survival Mode, is all about making as many shapes as you can without allowing the queue to overflow. It feels a bit proactive in that regard, as you begin by laying the groundwork for whatever large shapes you wish, but quickly becomes more reactive as tiles you don’t need begin to come your way in abundance. On top of that, there are also obstacles on the game board which stand to impede your progress. Fortunately this mode also contains certain special tiles, such as bombs, to help tilt things back in your favor.
The other mode, Shape Mode, features glowing outlines of shapes on the game board which you must match with the appropriate tiles. In this mode, you’ll also encounter special tiles marked with suns, moons, etc., which must be accounted for. In a way, it’s a simpler affair than Survival Mode, as you are mainly just matching tiles to a premade outline rather than creating your own shapes. But at the same time it isn’t without its own intensity, as you might quickly find the board’s squares filling with unusable tiles as you wait for just the one you need to appear.
Shape Mode also provides a little bit of narrative, as you are periodically given a little snippet of story about a young magician named Willow who discovered some mysterious shapes at the magic academy. The narrative might make one roll their eyes at first (because who plays puzzle games for the story, right?), but manages to become just intriguing enough to keep you curious as you keep playing. In fact, each little bit that they mete out seems to leave you wondering what comes next before they quickly pull it away for more game time.
All in all, it’s a rather harmless bit of added fun.
The game doesn’t suffer any serious flaws, though those playing on an iPhone screen may have difficulty distinguishing between some tiles. Specifically, there are some tiles where lines overlap in a “t” shape, and others which simply feature two corners which almost meet near the middle. At a glance, it can be difficult to tell the difference, and with the clock always ticking, that is never a good thing.
In the end, The Lost Shapes provides a solid, competent puzzle game experience. It doesn’t quite have the addictiveness of a Tetris, but still provides a good bit of fun that should satisfy any fan of puzzle games.