Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Mr. Shifty (NS, Steam) Review

Our first review of April comes from tinyBuild and Team Shifty, and it's the Nintendo Switch and Steam release, Mr. Shifty. How did the game turn out? Let's find out with the SuperPhillip Central review.

Shift into one exciting but short lived game

Mr. Shifty has you playing as the eponymous protagonist, infiltrating the world's most secure skyscraper in search of a precious treasure, Mega Plutonium. What follows is 18 stages of intense overhead viewpoint action, each on a different floor of the building, that will get your pulse racing and mind thinking with its blistering fast action and mild puzzle solving.

First, let's get something out of the way: Mr. Shifty is no doubt inspired by Hotline Miami, what with its overhead perspective and combat. However, what sets the game apart is its unique gameplay hook of Mr. Shifty being able to, well, shift through walls and across short distances, disappearing and then reappearing several feet head. This mechanic is necessary to not only dodge enemy bullets, attacks, and to get a jump on foes, but also to pass beyond walls, lasers, and much more.

Let the bodies hit the floor. (I'm not even a Drowning Pool fan.)
Mr. Shifty forces you to use the shifting (or teleporting) mechanic smartly, as in later levels you'll be overwhelmed by enemies, so cleverly shifting from one room to another or from one side of a group of enemies to another is a tactical decision that helps confuse foes. You have to be smart with your shifting because one hit, whether with a bullet, a punch, or an explosion, results in death, forcing you to restart the current area of rooms you're in. However, this is no huge annoyance most of the time for two reasons: 1) You're almost instantly brought back to retry the area thanks to the quick loading times after death, and 2) Most areas aren't too large, meaning that you don't have to redo a significant section of level.

The different ways you can go about taking on an area of enemies makes each combat situation varied.
That said, you can't just spam the shift button and teleport all around your enemies and in the room. Each time Mr. Shifty teleports, a piece of his gauge is depleted. There are five slices of gauge to use, so shifting five times in a row in quick succession empties it, leaving you a sitting duck. Or a sitting Mr. Shifty in this case. Fortunately, the teleporting gauge fills up rather quickly, so as long as you're not mashing on the shift button, you should have more than enough opportunities to shift across the levels.

Our teleportation proficient protagonist's main way of attacking enemies is through punching them. Most enemies take between 2-3 punches to defeat. However, there's also a series of weapons that Mr. Shifty can utilize in levels, such as mops, vases, poles, and even grenades that are thrown at him (though you definitely don't want to hold onto them for long, like, at all). The weapons when either used on foes by directly attacking them or throwing them at them generally defeats them in one hit, so they're great to use. Many, though, do get destroyed after some modest use.

Sometimes the way to go about defeating enemies is with a trusty old 2 x 4!
Outside of combat scenarios, Mr. Shifty occasionally introduces environmental puzzles and sections to complete. Having to evade an obstacle course of lasers by carefully shifting past them and rushing through a gauntlet of red barrels as a laser follows closely behind that causes them to explode (and hoping you're fast enough to not get caught in the explosions) are but two of the action-centered environmental challenges to overcome, though they might get frustrating with the aforementioned one hit deaths. Then, there are sections where you have to use your mind to figure out how to destroy a section of wall by using a nearby turret and exploding barrel or have to figure out how to approach sections of Mr. Shifty where you completely lack your teleporting powers.

When he's not evading bullets from enemies, Mr. Shifty narrowly escapes from the burn of lasers.
Mr. Shifty doesn't have a particular lengthy campaign, having one that can be completed in about four hours, but it makes for one that doesn't really outwear its welcome. The campaign routinely introduces new concepts to the player like different combat scenarios, as well as obstacles like laser grids, proximity mines, explosive barrels, and shift-free zones. That said, there also isn't much to do once the campaign has been initially completed outside of trying to go for Steam achievements. For the Switch version, really the only replay value to get out of Mr. Shifty is returning to stages to try to not die at all, getting a perfect run in each stage. This won't matter much, though, to Switch owners due to the lack of achievements.

The Nintendo Switch version of Mr. Shifty possesses occasional frame-rate dips and stutters during high moments of action, particularly explosive scenarios. At the same token, there IS a lot going on on screen, including one room where you can have upwards of three dozen defeated henchmen bodies laying on the ground after Mr. Shifty dispatches them. The visual style is rather pleasing to the eye, and the music is a mix of mellow tunes and pulse-pounding rock.

Certain explosive situations can really impact the frame-rate occasionally.
Mr. Shifty is a special game not due to its level design (though that does surprise and delight sometimes), but through its unique hook of teleporting and shifting around the game's 18 stages, attempting to get the jump on foes while dodging attacks and solving puzzles. I happened to enjoy both sections of Mr. Shifty, the combat ones which are the star of the show here, and the non-combat, more puzzle or gauntlet-style challenges. If you expect a grand scale campaign that will last you ten hours, you're going to be greatly disappointed, especially if you're a one-playthough-and-done kind of player, but otherwise Mr. Shifty is an exciting action game that offers both tense combat scenarios and engaging environmental puzzles and obstacles to overcome.

[SPC Says: B-]

Review copy provided by tinyBuild.

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