Mr.Shifty Is a top down action game that doesn’t focus on gun play, like a twin stick shooter. but with spacial awareness, strategy, and puzzle solving. Each level is like a great little puzzle of dexterity, awareness, and trial and error. Mr.Shifty has been related to great top down action games like Hotline Miami, and for good reasons. Hotline Miami is a punishing but fair top down violent action game with tight controls and great gameplay like Mr.Shifty. Aside from the guns and gore, you can say Mr.Shifty deserves to be up there alongside Hotline Miami. Mr.Shifty really shines with the gameplay and the implementation of the “Shift” ability (teleportation) and level design to use it. The developers had a great idea with good execution. Mr.Shifty does a great job of making you feel all powerful, and a genius when you get past a particularly tricky area. Mr.Shifty may be a great action game but there are a few problems with it.
The plot really doesn’t have much going for it. It’s really simple. You play a thief with a shifting ability, that doesn’t speak, and likes to punch stuff, yes including walls. The Plot involves you, Mr.Shifty, being tasked to go steal a plutonium core from a very rich and crooked businessman that plans to weaponize it, in a high security building. Being backed by a council and having the fairly funny and entertaining Nyx as you partner in your ear, you run through 18 stages trying to reach the top of the building. The plot follows the basic break in, be punch a lot of people and stuff, get caught, have your powers copied and used against you, and kill the big bad guy. Fairly simple but does it’s job, but the plot really isn’t the focus, it’s the gameplay.
The gameplay of Mr.Shifty is actually quite fun, but fairly easy at times. Mr.Shifty doesn’t have any difficulty settings, you just hit new game and go from there. While fighting a couple enemies is very easy in small numbers, it becomes frantic and fun to fight a horde of them. Having a variety of enemies really does help add fun when they are mixed together. Along with breakable walls and destructible environments the game becomes more about spacial awareness. Knowing how each enemy works in a area, where the weapons are that you can pick up, from a broom, to the Trident or Lightning Bolt of a statute, you need to focus on where you are and where you can go. You will have to manage your Shifts, you only get 5 to use in rapid succession as they recharge after a use, whether all or one. This all becomes so frantic because you are a one hit kill while enemies are either two or three hit kills. You will be moving constantly to avoid explosions and gunfire. Some of the best moments is when you can lure enemies away and pick them off one by one or in smaller groups. Another really fun thing to do is to get a large group to all fire in one direction, often shooting through their own allies and helping take down those numbers.
One other helpful power is the time slowdown mechanic. If you strike enemies fast enough to build up a bar it will lock into place at being full. Another way to fill the bar is to die multiple times and be given a full bar on respawn to help out. The slowdown of time happens when a bullet gets close to you. This is a nice way of staying alive, essentially sparing you from death. The slow mo mechanic mixed with the shifting really helps to make you feel powerful.
The weapons become a big help when you can throw a lighting bolt, trident, or shield through multiple enemies, making it viable to train them through a door to take out many. The broom, sticks and swords are great to smash 3 or 4 enemies through walls or send them flying. Simple throwable items like money, pillows, and cups are one hit kills, but only affect one enemy, unlike a shield. You can walk over mines and then throw them at enemies to blow them up or throw back grenades.
Now all this sounds fun and it is especially in the most frantic of areas, but this is where the biggest problem comes in. The lag. This game is not optimized well for Xbox One. After about the 5th stage I had constant lag to the very end. When many enemies or explosions were on the screen, it would slow down massively. HItting enemies would cause a split second of lag that would throw off your rhythm. This was constant to the point of feeling like every 6 out of 10 punches to an enemy had some amount of lag. Often I noticed the animation of the game wasn’t as smooth. Many times I died to lag as button presses weren’t being registered, or my rhythm was broken and lost what was happening. Mr.Shifty is a frantic and twitchy game where dexterity is supposed to be part of the fun, pulling off cool moves and avoiding enemies, but the lag really pulls you out of it and takes away from the fun. Now I have to reiterate, when I say the lag is constant it really is. Once I started to get lagging issues it happened constantly through to the end. It was bad enough that had other people, who can’t really see frame rate issues or the minor dropped frames most gamers would notice, actually notice the lag and freezes. At one point I had the game crash due to making a homing missile hit the one enemy on screen, this is a mechanic that is supposed to work for some puzzles, but in this instance it crashed my game. It becomes less of the feel but also very visual. Sometimes games can lag so little you don’t really notice or be bothered but here it became troublesome and took a majority of the fun of the mechanics out of the game.
Mr.Shifty has some really good puzzles, which focused on the shifting ability. Puzzles from traversal to avoiding lasers, like the laser hallway from the first and last Resident Evil Movies. Avoidance and traversal were not the only puzzles, although they are great, especially near the end. The other puzzle aspect is the level it self. Going through and trying to figure out the best approach to get at and take down enemies is quite fun, teleporting between rooms, avoiding, and taking out harder enemies is all part of the fun. There is strategy, you gotta figure out what works for you. The puzzles were fun and the level design was pretty good up till the end where in the last few stages it got even better. I don’t want to spoil why but it really steps up and becomes some of the most interesting and fun parts of the game.
This leads me to another problem with the game, is how short it is. I beat Mr.Shifty in 2 hours 55 mins and 58.682 seconds with 254 deaths. If you go into the stage select menu it tells you your total time and how many deaths and time for each level. Mr.Shifty is fairly short, 3 hours, but it doesn’t overstay its welcome. It feels well paced and good for it’s length. My problem is that the end is fairly abrupt right after some of the best parts of the game. The last 30 mins of the game are amazing and then it’s over, just like that. I wish the game could have been a bit longer so the developers could explore more for the puzzles and level design as they I felt they were really starting to get something fresh at the end.
There is some replayability in the game as it does track how well you do on each stage. You can always go back and try to perfect each stage, getting no deaths. But that’s only if it’s worth it for you. There are no collectibles or any other reason to replay but to do better than your last run.
The music is alright. I didn’t really notice it, it felt like background music. The sound effects although sounded much better, each hit and break felt and sounded good. When you hit someone it sounded like you really hit them hard. The sound effects were much better than the music as the music was just there.
The graphics are simple but pleasant. While the graphics may be simple they are very readable, meaning you can tell what’s going on without it assaulting the eyes and being confusing. Each enemy had a distinct look or colour that made it easy to understand who was where and how many of each there was. All in all the graphics work well for this kind of game, being readable and detailed enough to get a point across.
Mr.Shifty is a great game with so much potential. From readable graphics to great gameplay. The frantic battles felt good and fun, if you died you responded so quickly, each area was also a good size as restarting it never felt like you were too far back making it great to perfect each run. The puzzles from the dexterity based ones to the spacial awareness ones were all fun. Near the end of Mr.Shifty it really picked up until the abrupt end. But with such bad problems with the optimization and technical issues, with lag and even having the game crash once I cannot recommend this game on Xbox One. Your best bet is to get it on sale for $10 on Steam due to how short it is and, hopefully it runs better on PC. Until they fix the technical issues you would have a better bet looking elsewhere or just avoiding the game unless on sale. $14.99 is in my opinion a little much for 3 hours of lag.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.