Written by James Nicolay
Title: Mr. Shifty
Developer: Team Shifty
Publisher: tinyBuild Games
Release Date: April 13, 2017
Also Available On: PS4, XB1, Windows and Mac
At its core, Mr. Shifty is a fun action game played from top perspective, reminiscent of Hotline Miami and many classic games like the first The Legend of Zelda on NES. The first hour of playing the game feels almost illegal as it is way too much fun, but the repetitive enemies, interruptive bugs, and frequent frame rate drops can spoil one's full appreciation of the game.
You play as the eponymous character with one cool power: similar to X-men's Nightcrawler, you can teleport a few steps in front of you (with a reticle guiding you where the shift will take you), almost making you invisible and invincible when taking down enemies. While Mr. Shifty seems overpowered, there's one catch: you die when you get hit ONCE. To me, this is a fair penalty as you can shift five times quickly to any direction, thereby, making you difficult to be pinned down by enemies. After five quick successive shifts, there is a time refresh of the ability, and so the player should be strategic when using the shifts. If you shift gradually once at a time, the cool down also works (one second per shift slot), and so the shifting button should not be spammed mindlessly.
There are only two real actions in the game: you can press B or R button to shift to the direction in front of you, and you can press Y or L button to punch enemies or throw weapons at them. Most enemies require at least two punches two defeat them, a few requires three. There are weapons to pick up: mostly non-gun weapons or sticks, or dropped items to throw back at the enemies. Strange enough, Mr. Shifty never uses a gun (cool tidbit though, some pickable weapons seem to have Greek Mythology references).
There are times when a perfect strategy of shifting and punching is best employed especially when many enemies attack you at once. And this is where Mr. Shifty feels like a really good strategy or stealth video game. You can shift from one room to the next, and maybe shift towards the back of the enemies to make a stealth attack. Most enemies can shoot you within 2 seconds of targeting you; hence, you have to be quick in order to shift your way to vanquishing all enemies so that the next portal can lead you to the next levels.
There are 140 levels in Mr. Shifty's 18 stages. More types of enemies get introduced along the way and some new stage obstructions like lasers, bomb barrels, no-shift zones, etc. There are few puzzles introduced throughout the game, and most of the time, the player just revels in defeating enemies after enemies, level after level.
The first hour of the game was the most fun part as the player feels ridiculously powerful and badass because it's easy to make use of the shifting power to defeat enemies. The game script can be hilarious (or crass, at times), further adding to the strange hilarity of the addictive violence in this game. The story of the game is almost irrelevant as the three characters hardly really interact together all throughout the game. You are guided by Nyx, a woman who directs you your objective in every level (with the ultimate goal of stealing a plutonium core from a supposedly highly secured building), and Chairman Stone, the big boss of the game.
After the first hour of playing, the player might feel that the game gets repetitive as the enemy types don't really get much variety. However, the difficulty is set to gradual--hence, the player will still feel the urge to play the game despite failing or dying a lot of times.
Having been exposed to action games of the NES or Famicom, I don't really have problems when a 2D action game like Mr. Shifty gets repetitive--mostly because the no-brainer aspect is actually something I look forward to especially after playing AAA games. And this is why, I think Mr. Shifty is perfect for Nintendo Switch as it's easy to pick up every now and then for some fun, brainless action gaming.
The only real concern I have while playing the game is how the game hung up on me three times in my almost 5 hour play through. What was annoying was it happened in one of the most difficult levels in the game, in Stage 18, where I struggled through a level for more than 30 minutes, and after going through the portal for the next level, the game gave me an error screen. I had to reboot the game and restart the entire stage again, about 4 levels prior to the difficult level which I painstakingly played for a long time.
The latter levels also felt extremely slow as the frame rate dropped to extremes where every shifting guarantees microsecond of freezes. The game was still playable, though. So when the game gave me an error screen, rebooting the game actually fixed the frame rate drops.
I hope that a patch for this game comes soon as I think I will still be visiting some levels in the future in order to just challenge myself with fewer deaths and faster finishing time for each level.
Possible rooms for improvement: maybe different types of stage or location for the levels, power-ups for more distant shifting, and maybe some bonus items for quick invincibility period. And maybe some collectibles per level, too.
Generally, I had a blast playing the game, especially as it made me feel as if I were in a popular scene in the movie Kill Bill and I encountered so many enemies in the room yet still feel it's entirely possible to defeat them all. I think Mr. Shifty has a lot of great potential as a new IP, and I think it's still worth a try, but defeinitely I'm more than excited for a more refined sequel in the future.
A download code was provided for the purpose of this review.