Switching has been all the rage these days, but what about shifting? Well, TinyBuild and Team Shifty have just the game to satisfy that craving. Mr. Shifty is a title that has recently been released for PC and Nintendo Switch. Fellow TiCGN writer Peter Faden checked out the game’s beta, but when it was announced to be released on the Switch, I couldn’t help but hop on the bandwagon. With that said, let’s discuss the plot.
The title protagonist has to break into this huge building to destroy a plutonium-powered device that would benefit the army of a man by the name of “Commander Stone”. To quote this game’s equivalent to April O’Neil:
There isn’t much else to the story, which is fine by me. What bothers me is I’m not sure if Mr. Shifty‘s villain is handled that well. It’s clear he’s an evil asshole, but despite his hammy attitude and mocking lines of dialogue, both of his confrontations come off as anti-climatic. In the first instance, you just have to outrun him as the hallway explodes. In the second, attacking him like any other enemy sends him crashing out the office window; immediately after that, the credits roll.
On one hand, I like the cel-shaded look. On the other, I think the top-down view doesn’t quite do it justice. It gets especially numbing when the entirety of Mr. Shifty takes place in this one huge tower. The scenery doesn’t change enough to keep the art style appealing. To be fair, things do get exciting when explosion happen and bodies fly.
Another thing I’d like to take note of is the framerate. I know I mention framerates more often than I should in reviews, but this case specifically mildly annoyed me. Maybe I just hadn’t tried docking my Switch and connect it to an HD TV, but the framerate is at thirty frames per second in this version. I thought there wouldn’t be a problem running a game like this with smoother rates, but something occured to me. Since I actually own Mr. Shifty on Steam due to PAX events, I installed the game to see how it performed on my laptop. Wouldn’t I know it, the game ran at sixty frames per second. I can only assume the port had a couple difficulties. Not helping this is the fact that the Switch version crashed twice during my play through of the game.
It’s always fun to hear punches, gunfire, and explosions in Mr. Shifty (especially when the HD Rumble accompanies these actions). Not as fun is the soundtrack. While I commend the composers for making an effort, the compositions just do not fare well with the game itself. If I were to try recalling some of the tunes that play throughout the game I wouldn’t be able to note any of them. They just didn’t stick with me.
The comparison made by TinyBuild themselves is “Hotline Miami meets Nightcrawler“. As someone that hasn’t actually played Hotline Miami nor read X-Men comics, I think it’s best if I elaborate on the gameplay as presented in Mr. Shifty itself. The game plays in a top-down perspective, but it functions similarly to that of a beat ’em up. The player runs around an office building and has to beat up guards in each room to progress. Eventually, a room will contain an elevator, which is used to move on to the next level. There are eighteen levels in total.
What makes this game interesting is the ability to teleport. Players can teleport a few feet ahead – and through thin walls – per button pressing, and there’s a meter that automatically refills to manage a limit on it. This is absolutely vital for combat; it makes sense given this is the main hook. Shifty only has a one-two punch, but trying to attack enemies using just that punch would prove to be fatal. Teleportation adds an all-new element to the combat; whether it be planning strategies regarding who to kill/how to approach them or going crazy on a kill streak by warping around, it’s a lot of fun to use this mechanic. It’s even more fun when the game slows the scenery down and allows you to kick into overdrive!
If anything, I wish Mr. Shifty did more to capitalize on this winning formula. There is a sense of variation to an extent by means of enemy types and hazards like lasers and rooms preventing teleportation. They don’t keep things from growing repetitive, though. For example, while the enemies can be equipped with different weapons, they always attack the same way as each other. Props to the game for trying to make due with what elements it does have in store, but I bet there’s a lot more that could be done to spice things up further.
While I do feel the overall presentation could be improved upon, I think the game is fun and enjoyable as a whole. It can be downright addictive when teleporting and punching punks; there were a few times where I’ve played for longer than I intended to. I would just like to see Team Shifty up the ante if there’s a next time they tinker with the formula.