The name’s Shifty, Mr. Shifty.
Welcome to Mr. Shifty, a game developed by Team Shifty and published by tinyBuild.
You play as Mr. Shifty, a teleporting thief who is sent into a building to steal Mega Plutonium before it can be used for dastardly deeds. Your original attempts are thwarted and you must fight your way through each level of an evil corporation as you try to take out Mr. Stone, the CEO of the company. You will find yourself fighting your way through the minions that inhabit each floor, slowly unlocking more dangerous obstacles as you overcome the problems that cover your path. Whether it be minions holding pistols, or brutes toting rocket launchers, you can assure yourself that you will find it as you make your way to the top. And you’ll probably die quite frequently, too.
The game is split into three acts, each one having a separate amount of stages. The first is focused on introducing the story and building the foundation, the second about giving you conflict, and the third is (probably) about resolution, but I’ll get back to why I can’t be as definitive there, later.
There are really only three characters in the game that aren’t random goons, and those are Nyx, the voice in your ear that guides you through your mission, Chairman Stone, the solid boss that doesn’t take kindly to your actions, and Mr. Shifty, the aforementioned thief. Each one has unique lines of dialogue, none of which are voiced, but instead appear in text boxes that you can read or ignore with ease. What bothers me about this approach is that in certain bits of gameplay, you’ll receive a message that covers your teleportation bar, the bar at the bottom of the screen that tells you how many times you can ‘shift’ before you hit a larger cooldown. It just so happens that sometimes that text box will cover your teleportations during a massive running segment, making it impossible to tell if you have enough shifts, or if you’ve wasted them and you need to let them cooldown.
This happened in one of the later levels where you have to run down a long, windy corridor and dodge seeking missiles that are being shot at you quite fast. You have to make it through three switchbacks before you leave the area, and when you respawn after dying, you’re right down range from the missiles, forcing you to dodge whilst you can’t keep an eye on how many shifts you have in your bank. It took me twenty minutes to beat that area because I couldn’t keep track of how many times I shifted. If the developers at Team Shifty either prevented the chat from showing up after the first time, or made the missiles not fire until you cross a certain area, it would fix my second biggest issue with the game.
The largest of which pertains to its overall performance in the later levels.
In most of the third act missions, the game chugs its performance faster than a competitive drinker. Most of the levels run with performance issues, and it makes it near impossible to fight off the hoard of enemies that are causing this lag. Usually this will end up with them shooting each other and killing themselves off, but if they’re explosive enemies, you might as well pray to your RNGesus shrine in hopes of making it through. It was especially annoying in the last level, titled The Machine, which is where I had to stop playing the game. The game dropped to such a low framerate in an area that blocked my shifts, so even if I wanted to dodge out of the way, I pretty much couldn’t. Mr. Shifty needs a heavy dose of optimization before I can really go back and finish it off, which I really want to, for the rest of the game is fantastic!
The meat and drink sees Mr. Shifty come across as a puzzle-punchy kind of game, sort of like if Hotline Miami raised the child of Nightcrawler and Viewtiful Joe. The gameplay is very much the melee side of Hotline Miami – and the one hit = death is also reminiscent of that – but add the teleportation of the Marvel hero, with an aesthetic of Viewtiful Joe, and you get this game. The combat feels nice, unless Shifty is slogging its framerate into oblivion, and the challenge of dealing with powerful enemies makes it all that more fun to play with. Not to mention that the dialogue has its moments, and the jokes feel very well placed.
The story, whilst simple, is still satisfying. It feels like you’re not overreacting to what you’ve been ordered to do, and the threats of Chairman Stone are backed up shortly after he makes them, giving the feel that he actually means business. Very rarely does a villain’s threat feel real, but you really do feel like he will kill you when he says it, so they’ve done a wonderful job of making the villain. Nyx is the humour house of the game, and some of her lines really gave me a few chuckles, and they fit well with the game. It’s an absurd concept, so why not have some absurd humour that breaks the tension?
Overall though and Mr. Shifty is a great game that has a need for some TLC to get it into shape. The overall game, up until the last level, generally left me with a smile on my face as I played it, making me wish I could be down in there, kicking the crap out of any henchmen I saw. But I eventually got fed up with the unoptimized ending, probably due to the amount of enemies that are thrown at you. The developers need to look into what causes that issue and fix it as soon as possible, for this is a game that I’m going to keep installed just so I can beat it.
And, not to shift a little too much, it’s definitely one that anybody wanting a puzzle-punch game in the spirit of Hotline Miami, should have installed as well.