To be a good puzzler, you don’t need to worry too much about a story, and you certainly don’t need to concern yourself with utterly stunning graphics. All you need is a clever idea and something to ensure you stand out from the crowd. Simple black and white visuals and an awesome SHIFT mechanic, anyone?
Shift Quantum has those things in abundance, with the development team at Fishing Cactus having near-on nailed exactly what is needed for success.
Selling itself as a cyber-noir action puzzle platformer, Shift Quantum will see you placed in the new Axon Vertigo Shift Quantum program, before being tasked with solving puzzles, and moving from a simple starting point, to an exit – preferably without being squashed by blocks or falling into spike pits in the process. But this isn’t just any old puzzler, and that is because the levels found within this game make use of negative space, twisting and turning the world you are in upside-down multiple times, just in order for you to find the very best escape route.
Black and white visuals make up nearly the entirety of Shift Quantum, with just the odd bit of colour thrown in every now and then to spice things up a bit. And it is due to this colour combination that we find a puzzler of the highest quality, one that tasks us with jumping across platforms, pushing and pulling blocks, utilising pressure points, messing around with gravity and flying high into the air as we attempt to discover the favoured route to our escape points.
It works brilliantly too and whilst the main mechanic – that of switching between the black and white worlds – will see you through the first few stages with ease, it doesn’t take long before the difficulty levels ramp up and Shift Quantum becomes a mind-bending action puzzler, one that requires a deft train of thought, and quick reactive fingers.
That said, you don’t need to be super quick on the controller front as it never gets to the point where you don’t get the chance to sit back and survey your surroundings, before dropping in and out of the negative space in order to plan your escape. In fact, when accompanied by the soothing soundtrack, it delivers a serene feel that sees Shift Quantum come across as a hugely delightful – but ultimately taxing – puzzle affair. Those controls work well too, with a simple press of the triggers shifting your character between the dark and light worlds in a flash. It has to be said though that grabbing and placing moveable blocks can sometimes feel a bit off, with precision when trying to action this sometimes letting the whole experience down. But on the whole, a well-worked control scheme and smooth gameplay manages to strike home.
With many games in the puzzle genre bordering on the line of frustration, Shift Quantum delicately skirts around any such issues, dropping in new game mechanics in a well-structured manner, ensuring that you understand fully what is expected of each stage – all before turning the difficulty notch up to 11 in the latter stages. You will therefore never fail to understand how the likes of the wind and rotator blocks work, or how each and every pressure pad reacts with your environment. If you do, then well, you can just hop back in to any previous stage and learn about them all over again.
And whilst you may think that this is just straightforward, plain old black and white puzzle escape action, there is plenty of replayability available within, with hidden collectable glitches in place for those gamers who need a little more of a test than that which Fishing Cactus have initially provided.
Should you manage to get your mind around the twisted environment that Shift Quantum is set in, and find yourself nabbing all the glitches, it thankfully doesn’t suddenly end there either. A Level Editor is available for you to put your most imaginative ideas into practice, before sharing them online for the world to enjoy; this isn’t going to be a ‘one and done’ puzzle affair. And of course, if you can share your ideas, then that means you also have access to all manner of stunning creations made by those the world over. If you really want to put your brain to the test, then trying to find a way out of some of the manic stages created by the community is most certainly the way to go.
It is this sharing of levels that ensures Shift Quantum will have a place in any puzzle fan’s heart for the foreseeable future, if only because the limits of the game can only be reached when that community dies. Signs are that that is a long way off too, and it is seemingly a hugely refreshing, well populated community that is currently embracing everything about negative space, refusing to set limits to any challenge.
I fully understand that this won’t be a game for all, but if you like a good puzzler, then you are sure to find one in Shift Quantum. It tests the mind in ways others cannot, and with the delights of the online community continuing to push it along, will ensure that even once the reasonably lengthy and highly entertaining campaign is done and dusted, there will nearly always be a reason to head back in to the negative space of Shift Quantum.