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Review: Shapez

Which way should I rotate them?!

I’ve been playing Shapez, a factory game where your raw resources are colors and shapes. There are three primary colors (red, green, and blue), and there are four shape-pieces (circle, square, star, and windmill). Colors are always pure, while some of the sources of shapes are a mixture of two or more quarters of different types (but always a four-quarter shape).

You start with minimal tools, and you unlock additional tools as you complete levels. You also get upgraded versions of tools by meeting delivery quotas for different shapes. But the goal of the game is to make shapes, paint them, and deliver them, all with conveyor belts and the machines you have and make.

As the game plays on, you get more ability and faster tools, but the complexity of the shapes grows with that, until a couple are downright puzzles to figure out how to build.

And after level 26, the shapes asked of you are random, requiring you to build an everything machine to build the shape without rebuilding your whole factory every time. While in the early levels you don’t need to do much wiring, building an everything machine requires a lot of wiring (signals and filters and booleans and inspectors to figure out which pieces are needed by the machine to make the layers and shapes).

As far as achievements go, most are simple enough and obtained through normal play. The hardest is likely to speedrun to level 12, which is a whole other (but probably equal) challenge to the everything machine. The everything machine requires a ton of building and wiring and checking and testing. The speedrun puts you back at the start of the game, and you have to figure out how to do things fast. Everything machines are zen gardening, speedrunning is a hotdog-eating contest.

My own modest tips for the everything machine (assuming the reader has looked into the task already):

  1. Four-color painters with four lanes of every possible color feeding it. You can run those lanes from afar, so that the rest of the factory can be closer to the goal.
  2. Trash filters before and after each step so you can clean up when the requested shape changes.
  3. You can find shape resources that contain all four parts. I used two different ones, but the maps vary. Throw them into four-way cutters and you have the raw materials. One full belt output will require 16 lanes of shape pieces (one per quarter makes four per layer, times four layers maximum).
  4. So you need seven colors times four quarters (28) times four layers: 112 color lanes total.

But it’s mostly a lot of wiring and shame that you didn’t build everything perfect the first time, reworking, figuring out you forgot to add that belt, and so on.

As for the speedrun, it’s tough. A lot of the trouble here is realizing you have to unlearn all those nice tools and upgrades you earned in the main game, because you only get some of them back as you progress through the run.

You need to get upgrades fast as you can, but you’re limited on how far you’ll get in the 30 minutes for the gold medal. You have to balance the immediate level goals with the amount of time they’ll take to complete.

My first attempt was just over an hour (so I only got bronze), but it took practice to keep my wits about me in the early game, staring blankly as I couldn’t copy-paste, couldn’t build how I’m used to. It was a fun challenge.

After maybe ten attempts I got down to just over a half hour, and on my final run I was done building with five minutes to spare. Enough, I thought until I realized I’d forgotten to let enough purple circles through for the next belt upgrade (47 short!), so I frantically tried to beg-borrow-steal them to upgrade as time ticked away, but it didn’t matter. I got there in just under 30 minutes.

A lot of runs fall to small things. Forgetting to set up stars at the start, or forgetting to connect a few belts here or there. Getting tangled up in rotations. But with enough practice, your brain figures all that out, you see what you can reuse, and you can become rather speedy.

I’d heard of factory games, but hadn’t really played them before. I played Spacechem years ago, but it’s a bit different from modern factory games and is more puzzle-oriented.

I’ve enjoyed playing. It takes some learning, but the level progression is good at teaching you step-by-step, and outside of the speedrun (and maybe the everything machine) it’s not too hard to get the hang of.

On the whole it took me about 74 hours to finish the game (through level 101) and get all 45 achievements. I enjoyed my time playing, so if you want to try a factory game, give this one a look.

Art: Book on a Blanket

Page six that far in?

Another with a lot of rights and (probably more) wrongs to it. But still mostly hangs together as a thing.

Because alternate text is no place for two pages of text, I’ve elected to quote it here:

[Start of page six]

the bathroom, some laundry detergent, a case of lightbulbs, that sort of thing.

As he started to cross the store’s pharmacy rows, he heard the PA call out his name: “Mr. Ogden, please come to the customer service desk. Mr. Ogden, please come to the customer service desk.”

He paused for a moment. Maybe there was another Ogden there among the endless aisles. Nobody knew he was here, and even if they had known, who would try to call him while out shopping?

He turned his cart around and started for the front of the store, wondering if a friend had seen him as he shopped and then lost him. He had seen a few dozen people with their own carts as he’d gone down his list, but none of them had looked familiar.

At the front desk a curly-haired woman stood next to a teenage girl with brown hair and overalls who was crying in a chair. Before he could say his name, the girl looked up and called, “Dad! I was looking all over for you!”

Ogden turned his head to the side, expecting to see her father behind him, but there was nobody there. He pointed at his face in a question to the girl.

“Mr. Ogden?” the store clerk asked him.

“Charles Ogden, yes. But maybe there’s another man here by my name?”

“Your daughter, Ronda, couldn’t find you.”

“Yes,” he said. “I’m sure her father will be here shortly. Must be we are distant cousins, sharing the name. And from her reaction, I’m sure that’s it. We must look quite a lot alike.”

“You mean you’re not her father?” asked the clerk. She turned to the girl. “Is this your daddy?”

“Course he is,” she said, her tears abated but her cheeks still wet. “He’s just kidding around.” Ronda got

[Start of page seven]

up from her seat and stood at the end of my cart. “Let’s go. I have a piano lesson today after we finish shopping.”

Ogden wasn’t sure what to do. “Are you sure you shouldn’t wait for your father?” he asked.

“Quit it,” she said. “It’s getting late as it is.”

He felt he should protest, but the clerk seemed satisfied that he was the girl’s father, and she did too, and so he figured he better talk to her alone, so he turned the cart back towards the pharmacy rows and the girl fell in beside him.

As they got out of earshot, he asked her, “What is all this about? You with the guy in the jeep from earlier?”

“Dad! Cut it out. It stopped being funny five minutes ago,” Ronda said. I asked where she got lost, to which she said, “I went to look at the magazines while you were getting those lightbulbs, and when I came back I couldn’t find you. I ran around half the store, and my anxiety got up. When I started crying the store clerk took me to the front and paged for you.”

“You really believe I’m your father? I bet he’s worried sick for you, probably will page you from the front any moment now. Must be a cousin. Let’s see, there’s Uncle Ernie, Aunt Jessie—though her last name’s not Ogden anymore. There’s that crew I don’t even know their names from down the shore. I met them once at the grands’ fiftieth. Lots of Ogdens aren’t even related enough to know, but some could still look like me.”

“Your Uncle Ernie had strawberry blond hair. I’ve seen the photos. And Aunt Jessie’s last name is Mares,” she said, as though it were recited from a family history book. I can tell you about yourself, too. You like to slap your knee when you laugh real hard, and you say to yourself, ‘Is it? It is,’ when you’re working on

From some thing I threw together to have text for the book image. 2023.

Art: Crayon Calendar Cartoon

Art was simpler as a child.

Somewhere I still have a Christmas plate from kindergarten where we had to draw a picture and they somehow turned it into a plastic plate. All the fingers of each hand come out of a single point. Spooky.

But this, it’s a simple word-replacement joke, instead of pencil you in it’s crayon. I like cartoons and jokes, but they’re tough to make art of, mainly because of the limitations of alternate text. Describing a joke feels wrong, but it also takes a lot of words.

There are lots of web comics, and as I understand it most don’t bother that much with alternate text because it’s sort of beside the point, but it also feels like:

  1. Lots of accessibility users miss out on some funny content.
  2. Having alt-text would make the future of AI-generating art from alt-texts way cooler.

Expanding on the second point, if I used those artificial intelligence image generator sites, I could pull my alt text for this image and see what they come up with. That could be fun, but it would also give some idea of their sophistication—whether their output even vaguely matches the described image.

It was also a lot of fun scribbling out the low-stakes stick-figure drawings, though I probably could have found a better way to give them that crayon-drawn texture.