Mr. Shifty is a top-down action game developed for the Nintendo Switch and PC by Team Shifty. The Nintendo Switch version seems to be one of the few games to use the HD Rumble feature so far, and it uses it fairly well, with different types of rumble for different impact, or explosions. The gameplay is fairly simple. Move around with the left joystick, move the camera a bit with the right joystick, attack with one button, use or pick up items with another button, and teleport with a third button. Teleports, however, aren’t unlimited, as you have a maximum of five to use, which regenerate after a short period of time, unless you use all of them. Then you have to wait for all of them to regenerate.
One thing that Mr. Shifty does well is the difficulty curve. It starts off easy, with few enemies that can only fire single shots, then progresses to melee enemies that are harder to kill, normal enemies with machine guns, shotguns, rocket launchers, and later even ninjas. The progression is fast enough to not get bored, but isn’t overwhelmingly fast, either. Only in the last few levels does it ever get to a difficulty where rage-quitting is a considerable option, and even then, it’s still doable – you just have to get better, or as a lot of people would call it, “git gud”.
What also helps is the “slow-mo” power. After each enemy you kill, the “slow-mo” bar is filled a bit, but starts decreasing again if you don’t keep filling it. Once it’s full, it stays full until an enemy shoots at you. Then everything slows down so that you can run around and punch that enemy right in the face, all while teleporting and killing other enemies before the slow-mo bar runs out and everything is back to its normal speed.
Even in the earlier levels, Mr Shifty almost never gives you more than a short moment to breathe. You’re always either on the run from lasers, punching a horde of enemies with machine guns out of the window on the higher floors of a skyscraper, teleporting your way around several missiles, or just trying to survive. Despite the enemies being quite similar, the levels never feel repetitive, which is quite impressive, due to the repetitive nature of this style of game. Each level has a completely different layout, and each one brings a harder and more complex challenge than the last.
What Mr. Shifty does not really have is an in-depth story. There is a very slim narrative that holds all the levels together, as you proceed up or down the tower of an evil corporate billionaire, filled with all sorts of spy clichés. However, the game never attempts to take itself seriously, which is one of its strengths. Absurd things happen, and the characters don’t believe them either. With a brooding (but silent) badass spy protagonist with the tendency to make an explosive exit, Mr. Shifty is almost a parody of the spy genre.
Each level ends and starts in an elevator, with your typical elevator music playing, with level endings showing you how long you took for the level, and how many times you died, and level beginnings fading from elevator music to action movie guitar shredding as the doors open. The game can be especially brutal with its checkpoint system, only ever saving each time you enter a new room through a door with a green light, so in the later levels, when a room can actually be two large rooms connected by a long corridor with several waves of strong enemies, if you get hit by the last missile before you can move on to the next room, you’ll have to do it all again.
Although the game crashed twice for me, it was never at a critical moment, once it was while leaving a level and once while leaving a room. While playing, it’s ridiculously smooth, with lag spikes only ever being present in the later levels, when there are several enemies on and off the screen, along with several missile launchers exploding within short periods of each other. Even then, they’re not very common, and the game feels very polished all around.
Review copy provided by PR
Mr Shifty is a very fun, fast-paced game with several hours of playtime in the first playthrough. It has a high replayability factor, with each level being selectable from the menu, letting you try to play each level faster than the previous time, with less deaths, until you manage a perfect run. I look forward to what else Team Shifty has to offer, with this launch window title for the Nintendo Switch being very entertaining.