The first few puzzles start with classic sliding block mechanics, but the game immediately shows its originality with its choice of the goal. In this kind of games, you usually have to "free" a piece so that it can slide out of the board, or simply have to put the pieces in some predefined order. In Shapist, instead, you have to move the pieces away from a gray rectangle, which represents a door. When the rectangle is completely uncovered, the door opens and you fly through it to reach the next puzzle.
To be honest, I don't think the physics simulation is accurate enough to be believable, and actually more often than not the pieces seem to behave in odd ways, especially if you try to move them quickly. This isn't a major issue, however.
The usual, plain geometric shapes are soon joined by other pieces with special properties. The first ones you meet are magnets:
The second special element is springs:
Late into the game, you get to use pieces that can be rotated:
I'm not going to explain what the last special piece does, because figuring out how to interact with it is fun in itself. Suffice to say that it will force you to look at the puzzles from a different angle.
I got stuck many times, and putting the game aside for a while and coming back to it with a fresh mind helped getting past the hurdles. I found it annoying that if you quit the game, the current puzzle is reset instead of remembering the position where you left it.
I appreciated that some of the puzzles are not simply a matter of sliding the pieces around, but also need some more clever trick to reach the solution, requiring the player to think out of the box (sometimes literally).
The great limit of this game is the user interface. For some reason, even if it is currently only available for iPad (apart from a browser demo), it seems to have been designed to be used with a mouse. It requires good precision to pick up the pieces, which results in missed moves if you try to play more casually, but most importantly it only supports single touches for all interactions. This is a shame because many things feel counterintuitive.
For example, often you'd want a magnet to stay still while you slide another piece beside it to keep it in place. You'd be tempted to hold the magnet with one finger and slide the other piece with another finger, but that doesn't work; instead, you just have to rely on some (very short!) delay built into the engine.
Another example is compressing springs: you'd expect to be able to pinch them with two fingers, but instead you have to use just one finger and push them against another object. Similarly, it would seem natural to separate two magnets by spreading them apart with two fingers, but instead you have to double tap them.
The most annoying example is the rotating pieces. Instead of the widely accepted two fingers gesture, you have to grab the piece by one corner and drag it around to make it turn.
The list of puzzles is also painful to navigate quickly, and often stops altogether if you try to scroll it quickly.
Despite the shortcomings in the user interface, I recommend this game because the puzzles are challenging and interesting, and I had good fun solving all of them.
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