Mr. Shifty was first unveiled for the Switch in a Nindies presentation before the console was even released. Along with many titles presented there, Mr. Shifty certainly caught my attention with its unashamed full on action. Punching, explosions, more punching. Punching bad guys out of windows. It seemed to have a lot of punching.
The main gimmick of the titular Mr. Shifty is his unique ability to teleport a few metres in front of himself, as well as through objects. Aside from the copious amounts of punching, teleporting (or shifting) is something you will be doing constantly as it is essential for your survival against the hordes of henchmen.
The story, concerns Mr. Shifty and his wise-cracking aid, Nyx, as they attempt to steal megaplutonium from a high security building. What with Mr. Shifty’s teleportation skills he’s the only man for the job. As predictable as the Sun rising, not everything is as it seems and Mr. Shifty’s quick access to the target seems a little too easy. While the plot is overall irrelevant compared to the gameplay it does try a little with plenty of twist and turns, as predictable as they may be. It’s serviceable but largely uninteresting.
Gameplay is key, not the plot. Shifting through walls and hazards to either take out enemies or avoid them is definitely fun and exhilarating, especially regarding the risk versus reward aspect. Mr. Shifty is not an easy game by any means. It’s one hit and down. And considering the majority of enemies you face have guns, and you, only fists, you’re really up against it. Their bullets travel fast and the further you progress, the more powerful and competent they become. It’s incredibly easy to be taken out. And be taken out, you will. You will fail a lot.
Due to its twitched based nature, Mr. Shifty is easy lose at and potentially be frustrating. While not always, it sometimes has a trial and error based progression. Early on you’ll get through a level by dying just a few times, but later on you’ll die about 20 times. It really begins to ramp up with a few difficulty spikes in the middle. Thankfully the developers have been quite generous in regards to checkpoints. You’re never at any point, far away from where you died which is usually at the beginning of the many smaller areas that make up one stage.
To throw you a bone with so many enemies needing to be taken down, and as a reward for attacking all-out, an orange meter above the teleportation count will increase the more you attack. When it’s full you can use a slow motion ability which auto activates when bullets get near. It’s very useful and is regularly an absolute life saver. Naturally, even if the meter builds up, if you stop attacking for a while, it will rapidly start to decrease.
As well as using your fists to smash goons to oblivion, there are essential weapons to pick up too. They are much more powerful, have a longer range and width. Whether they’re swords, sticks or even a coffee cup, you’ll want to be picking them up. My personal favourite is the shield which can be thrown Captain America style, taking down anything in it’s path.
One interesting mechanic that crops up pretty early and often is taking away Mr. Shifty’s powers. Machines emanate a teleport-free zone that don’t allow him to do his trademark technique. These are always highly tense moments, and while I often prayed to destroy the machines as quick as possible, I have to admit, the strategy and panic mix of being so utterly useless, often made them the more fun parts of the game.
A couple of things I found oddly absent were the lack of anything collectable and hidden rooms and secrets. Usually games of this type are littered with them. I’m not actually convinced this is a negative as, to be honest, most of those things are just fat to pad a game out. Mr Shifty is solely focus on the core game, which is actually fair, but may give the game less of a need to be replayed.
One thing to note is that the game had a few performances issues. While 90% of the game runs well and smooth, the last couple of stages really suffer from too much going on on the screen. Looking at Mr. Shifty you wouldn’t think it would trouble the Switch much. But when there are dead bodies strewn across a huge room with more and more enemies spawning it sadly starts to chug. While of course it’s off putting, personally I just dealt with it and in the end it didn’t bother me so much. I don’t think it hindered the gameplay but hopefully Team Shifty will provide a patch to improve it in the near future. It’s well worth noting for those who are less forgiving than myself.
With a game claiming non-stop action you have to worry about pacing. You can quickly become action fatigued if a game doesn’t give you some rest bite or switch up the gameplay once in a while. I feel Mr. Shifty does suffer from this a little. There are no outright stealth sections, which considering it’s about a heist is slightly atypical, and what there are of slow moments are few and far between. Mr. Shifty is full on action.
HD Rumble, something which Nintendo really pushed during the Switch reveal, has been utilised in Mr. Shifty. One of the first titles to do so. However, in all honesty, I didn’t notice any difference whatsoever. So much so, I can’t comment on it any further.
The game boasts a cel-shaded art style, almost like a comic book. It’s not the nicest looking game around, particularly with some generic looking environments and hazards that crop up time after time, but it does the job well enough. With the game’s unrelenting action you don’t really have time to stop and notice the details. Items can sometimes be difficult to identify and occasionally I erroneously mistook a living enemy for a dead one, rooms can be so packed with things it’s easy to not notice things.
Overall, I don’t think Mr. Shifty is an essential eShop title by any means. Saying that, there’s plenty to enjoy in its full on action. It’s got a great gameplay concept that is definitely fun to use. Sadly I don’t think the game developed as time went on as few new mechanics are introduced after the first handful of stages or so, which may stagnate the experience for some. After personally playing through the five hour campaign in three gameplay sessions, I found it rather enjoyable in the end despite occasional frustration.
Game provided by Tiny Build.