Mr. Shifty is a game that feels absolutely made for Nintendo's latest console. It has a clean, overhead art style made up of brightly coloured enemies and environments, and a distinctive lead character. The skills that Mr. Shifty himself possesses also make him feel well suited to the sometimes casual gaming that is required on a portable device, yet that doesn't mean Mr. Shifty is a game that lacks challenge.
Players are tasked with teleporting – or shifting as it's known here – through enemies, bullets and even walls as they undertake a dangerous heist in the most heavily fortified tower in the world. All is not as it seems however, and Mr. Shifty soon finds himself with more trouble than he was expecting.
You can purchase Mr. Shifty from the Nintendo eShop now. There is no physical release available at the time of writing this review.
As a fairly lightweight indie title, Mr. Shifty doesn't feature a hugely complex story packed with dialogue, branching objectives and side quests. Instead, it has a clear and punchy plot that revolves around the titular character, Mr. Shifty, and his mission to infiltrate an ultra secure tower filled with goons in order to steal a Plutonium Core.
Shifty and Nyx make a good pair, and it's clear that this isn't the first time they have faced impossible odds on one of their missions. I kind of wished there was a bit more backstory on offer, but at the same time if any more dialogue were added, it would probably just weaken the less is more theme that I enjoyed in the first place.
Gameplay is where Mr. Shifty really shines, although what begins as an easy to learn, innovative and enjoyable romp does eventually give way to tedium, and perhaps overstays its welcome by an hour or so. Shifty has the ability to teleport over short distances, much like Nightcrawler from the X-Men, and this ability is the central mechanic within the game.
Each room within the tower includes a number of walls that can be zapped through, as well as a number of doors that Shifty's less capable human foes can traverse through as they hunt him down. The object of the game is usually for Shifty to defeat all the baddies in each room by punching them or otherwise beating them up with an object like a bat, or a potted plant. The teleportation mechanic works really well with some fairly realistic AI, as the enemies often track towards the latest known location, only for Shifty to appear behind them, take a few down and then zip across to another room.
There is a feeling of real empowerment created by this mechanic, and learning how to play Mr. Shifty is a real joy during the opening hour or two. Shifty can be killed by a single hit of any kind, so keeping mobile is the key to success, but string enough kills together and Shifty can slow time using a kind of bullet time mechanic that is really handy in some of the more intense scenarios.
Unfortunately, within a couple of hours you'll have seen everything Mr. Shifty has to offer, and a big miss here is that Shifty's moveset never increases or changes really, except for in a few rooms where his shifting ability is temporarily nerfed by a field of some kind. This could have been forgiven had the game been slightly shorter, but in some of the later levels I found myself wading through over 100 baddies in between checkpoints and feeling frustrated that I didn't have some other super weapon up my sleeve.
There is no multiplayer mode in Mr. Shifty, and whilst I feel that the game would lend itself to a challenge or puzzle room kind of mode, there isn't one included in the base game. That means that once you've completed the story mode, you're likely to be done with Mr. Shifty, but considering the price point, that's not too big a problem.
Graphics and Audio
The graphics in Mr. Shifty suit the Nintendo Switch perfectly, because whilst they are small and often chaotic, they are also brightly coloured and crisp to the extent that they really pop on the small, sharp screen. Mr. Shifty is less impressive played on a large television in 1080p, but it is still far from unattractive. There is a decent range of enemy models (including a handful of bosses) and each is distinct enough that it's possible to tell them apart from one another, which is incredibly useful when either planning your attack or reacting to a fast changing battle.
One downside of the graphics in Mr. Shifty is that the variety of enemies is not replicated in the locations throughout the tower in which the game takes place. There are libraries, offices and other generic kind of corporate locations like lobby's, but the colour palette is always muted to allow the character models to stand out, and there are no truly unique or interesting locations.
The music and sound effects in Mr. Shifty are functional, but never exciting. The music is basically a continuous loop that never really changes, and although it isn't offensive, it does nothing to really enhance the experience either. Sound effects are what you would expect, the snapping of wood on heads, the crack of a fist hitting a jaw, the staccato fire of a machine gun and the tinkling of breaking glass. Fine, but unremarkable.
To conclude, I really enjoyed the first few hours of Mr. Shifty, but I became bored long before the end. The game has a boss fight and a kind of false finish around two thirds of the way in, and I think that would have been a fine place to end it personally. Another way to increase the longevity might have been to introduce some additional powers to increase Shifty's arsenal, or the developers could have included the challenge room mode I referred to earlier, or a multiplayer feature.
Mr. Shifty is still a worthwhile investment on the Nintendo Switch if you are looking for a fast paced, reasonably fun and light-hearted take on the traditional top down shooter or beat-em-up. I think it's a better game played in portable mode than docked because it seems to suit the kind of pick up and play games that I prefer on the move, so that is an additional consideration for picking the Switch version over the PC or any future console ports.
|+ Fun for a while||– Gets boring about two thirds through|
|+ Powerful teleporting mechanic||– Nothing else to do once you beat the story|
|+ Good for handheld play||– No new moves or fresh ideas beyond teleporting|
|+ Nice quips and one liners|