There’s a lot to be said for Game Pass and the fact that it allows you to try out smaller, perhaps more experimental titles that you otherwise wouldn’t have taken a chance on. Too often, gamers still fixate on the AAA, big budget blockbusters even when it comes to Game Pass – but the subscription service has allowed me to discover and enjoy countless indie titles that may otherwise have passed me by.
Though it may be a stretch to call Townscaper a game in the traditional sense – even its product description on the Xbox store states that it’s ‘more of a toy than a game’ – there’s a wonderfully tactile, pleasing and relaxing experience to be found once you press the A button to start.
Upon entering the ‘game’, you’re presented with an empty ocean and a colour palette on the side of the screen. Go up and down on the d-pad and you’ll change the colour that you’ll create a block with; press the A button and a block will pop into existence (and it really does arrive in the game world with a very satisfying ‘pop’ sound effect) – press the A button on a block of land that you’ve just created and it’ll add a house (removing a block is as easy as pressing the B button – and you can zoom in and out, move up down and around your world using the triggers and right stick too). You can do this across the play area, adding thousands of blocks and houses, in whatever configuration you choose, to quite an impressively vertiginous height too if you desire. The game’s logic quietly decides the shape and type of the building depending on what is going on around it, block or building-wise, making the simple placing of a block a sometimes surprising affair. Little animated trees and bushes, along with flocks of birds and an ocean that gently ebbs and flows all add to the chilled out ambience of the experience.
It’s difficult to describe quite why or how it continues to be so pleasing and engaging despite the thinnest of premises and content, but the fact that there are so many building types and even things like gardens to discover all add to the incredibly laidback, minimalist charm of Townscaper.
It’s a genuinely Zen-like experience and though it won’t last forever, its charm is undeniable and the pull to mess around with your creations is similarly compelling. It’s a shame that there aren’t little people populating the streets and occupying the buildings that you conjure up, but that may well have taken away from Townscaper’s serene minimalism – which, given its simplicity and accessibility, can be played and understood by just about anyone, of any age, within seconds. It’s definitely well worth a try if you have Game Pass, in any case – and even if you don’t, at less than a fiver you can’t really go wrong.
Townscaper is available now on Xbox via Game Pass – or to purchase on Switch, Windows, Mac and Xbox consoles.
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