Mr. Shifty was not a game I thought I would like. One in the many recent attempts to follow the success of frantic beat em up Hot Line Miami (Also published by Tiny Build Games) I was surprised to find that Mr Shifty is in fact a great game. It nails the formula of simple combat, fast movement, and just enough difficulty to keep me engaged. Team Shifty and Tiny Build Games have a winner here.
Its not a new formula, Mr. Shifty is a fast paced 2D game where you play the titular Mr. Shifty. A super hero who can punch things and teleport. The games distill combat in the same fantastic way that Hot Line Miami did. Its just you your fists and the ability to teleport short distances. Teleportation is nearly unlimited you can do ti 5 times in rapid sucession, and then you must wait a short time for a meter to recharge. Or, you can just manage the 5 as they recharge and have basically unlimited.
There is a great variety of enemies, both of the human and obstacle variety. Most levels are short and punchy. with a lot of emphasis placed on the ability to break scenery and jump through walls and over small gaps. The entire game takes place in a single tower, owned by the mysterious international business man and criminal Chairman Stone, who is wanted for a bajillion criminal offenses. We however are not here for that. We are here to steal some Uranium back from him. The games tone is irrelevant, clearly playing off of iconic games like Metal Gear Solid, and Splinter Cell, and at times making fun of itself.
The games primary antagonist is basically walls, I died more often because I put my teleport here dot in the wrong place then because I got shot. There are numerous environmental challenges in most maps and the only way to get across them is to use shiftys jumping ability. The game does have some vignette story elements, but 90% of it is just, go punch thing, jump. Its simple and simple here is good. The only story comes from an off screen narrator. The narrator has bottom third text and a picture, but never speaks. I found my self wishing she did most of the time, as the game is basically devoid of dialog. The rest of the plot is mostly simple it’s a lot of jumping punching and trying not to die.
That’s basically the whole game. There are several different types of enemies some of which require more hits to kill, some of which require you to run at them from the side, and some that you have to just run from. You can pick up and throw a variety of weapons and interesting things. From paddles you find on the wall, to pieces of office stuff like cups. These items felt a bit over powered, but were not game breaking.
There are 18 levels in total, and each of them feels different enough to be interesting. The objective stays the same, but the how of getting there is constantly changing. The flow of poofing towards an enemy striking them rapidly and then watching them fly towards a wall, presumably dead, is brilliantly nailed. During the times where I felt this flow the game was great. But these segments were interrupted with segments that felt more like a race than a beat em up. I wish the game had left some of these out and stuck to its more punchy parts. The racing parts are mostly there to provide more depth to the game, but I honestly felt like I would have rather puzzled, or punched my way out.
Each level has environments well suited to the shifting. This game feels the best when you are able to shift over a wall punch the crap out of some dudes, and then shift back to safety. Not when you are running from a wall of lasers and have to avoid punching enemies. Since weapon supply is limited to just a few pickups, shifty does well with just his fists. Those weapons can mean the clutch save or a death though, and the ability to throw them is Shiftys only long range defense.
The only real gripe I have with Mr. Shifty is that its got next to no story. It is a short game with just 18 frantically paced levels, all taking place in one sky scraper. The difficulty curve is also a little tough. By the 4th level I was repeating things over again. Plenty of times I died from a stupid mistake I made, but others I really felt like the game was punishing me for trying rather than being bad at the game. There are also no difficulty levels, so if you get stuck you just have to bang your head in to the wall until you get past it.
Overall this is a game which will have a lot of appeal to anyone who is a fan of hotline Miami’s speed, mixed with a slightly toned down aesthetic, and a little less going on. The speed of this game will keep even the most excitable entertained, and though there is a level of strategy involved several levels are can be conquered by just punching everyone. I do with the game was a bit more subtle when ramping up the difficultly. Some levels go from a 1 to a 10 and stay at a 10 the whole rest of the game. Other than the difficulty ramp, I really enjoyed this game and at the price point it’s hard to disagree. A solid 4 out of 5 for this first game from Team Shifty and Tiny Build.