Over the past year or so, there has been a growth in the number of games that aren’t strictly games. The likes of Cloud Garden and The Jump have offered a way to escape, but not necessarily with the usual trappings of challenges that we have come to expect in video games. Townscaper is another wonderful example of this.
From the first moment I sat down with a very early build of Townscaper, I was taken to place of relaxation satisfaction I just was not expecting.
The concept is simple, build a town or city in one of the most free flowing ways possible. There are no constraints of money or targets to hit and definitely no way to actually fail.
Your map is like a blank canvas and you paint with architecture. All you need to do is put down different types of buildings and watch as your town grows right in front of your eyes. There is a deep enjoyment to be had to watching something that is considered man made, seemingly grow in a natural way.
For me personally, Townscaper becomes a way for me to unwind from the everyday pressure of real life that some games just can’t offer. Whilst it can be cathartic to shoot demons in the face in the likes of DOOM, or wipe the floor with SallysMom77 on Tetris99, sometimes just need to relax without the challenge. I don’t want to do that by passively watching TV, or by having to play games in a way those particular ones may not have been intended.
This is where Townscaper bridges that gap. I initially played this on Steam and was great for losing myself but often meant I wouldn’t be engaging with those around me at the same time. So, the Switch release is very welcome and offers the perfect companion to Townscaper on the PC. I can sit here, Switch in hand on the sofa chatting to my family whilst still creating something amazing within the world Townscaper offers.
Townscaper may not be for everyone and isn’t one that can be recommended on a pure gameplay basis because it isn’t a game, whilst at the same time being a game. It is an experience and one that I can hold heartedly say is worth having.
What you essentially have with Townscaper is a digital massage for your brain. After just a short session you can find yourself completely relaxed and ready to take on whatever life throws at you next, whether that be another video game, that house work that you keep putting off, or even just heading to bed before attacking another day.
I may be overstating things a bit, I have a habit of doing that, but Townscaper is a really special “game” that has really resonated with me in such a unique way.