Developer: Team Shifty
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Rating: T for Teen
The first time I saw Mr. Shifty was during the Nintendo Direct a few months ago that showcased many great indie video games. It was one of the titles that particularly caught my eye, and seeing that Tinybuild would be publishing it was very pleasing to me. I own many of their titles across PC and Playstation 4. Speedrunners is especially a hit among our Twitch staff members, and we have opened our Pledge Drive with it for two years in a row at this point. By saying all of that, my question is: Does Mr. Shifty have a place among the already great roster of Indie video games that Tinybuild has under their belt?
Mr. Shifty is rated T for Teen for violence and language. Players take control of a thief with the ability to teleport while using various melee weapons and throwable objects such as staves and tridents to pin enemies to walls—Shifty does not use guns or ranged weapons. Enemies, however, do use various ranged weapons such as pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, rockets, and grenades. Many stages contain traps in the form of damaging laser grids, explosive barrels and auto-turrets. Yet There is no blood or gore to be found. When the player or enemies are defeated, they simply fall to the floor.
The negative language comes in only a handful of words. Mr. Shifty’s handler by the name of Nyx uses the words a** and a**h*le on multiple occasions.
On a positive note, though we don’t learn much about our hero, I’d like to think he has some sort of honor code. Whether it be a part of his character or a simple development choice, Mr. Shifty does not use guns. He could be a thief with sort of a Robin Hood mentality since he is stealing a dangerous object from an evil corporation. It is possible that with his teleportation ability, that Mr. Shifty does not use ranged weapons possibly because it would be completely unfair to his foes and involve much less skill and thrill while executing the mission. For Honor!
The key gameplay mechanic in Mr. Shifty is your teleportation ability. The best way for me to describe it is that it plays like the scene in X-Men 2 where Nightcrawler is causing all kinds of chaos by teleporting through White House and kicking people around. In Mr. Shifty, all sorts of trickery can take place to subdue my enemy. For example, I would warp into one room to misdirect an armed guard. Once he got close enough to the door I was behind, I would launch the door off of its hinges right into him. In other situations you may find enemies standing near a window; those guys can be knocked straight through the glass if you choose to do so. Mr. Shifty’s ability is not fully unlimited however, as you get four button presses before your power must cool down.
The combat encourages players to get creative. Shifty does not use any weapons with live ammunition. Weapons that can be used are staff-like, such as broomsticks and decorative boat oars. The throwable objects are pieces of stone from broken statues and other small decorative objects that do a small amount of damage. There are a few unique throwable weapons that are entertaining to use, including the already-mentioned trident, and a decorative shield that works like Captain America’s by bouncing off of walls and into enemies.
What I found to be strange is that it only takes one hit for the player to be subdued. It would make more sense if defeat was the result of being shot, yet getting punched by an enemy bears the same results. The saving grace of this mechanic is that Shifty shifts goes into a bullet time-like slow motion mode when at full power that acts as a second chance. I can’t consider that to be a negative or downside—things would likely be too easy if it was any other way.
Infiltrating the most secure facility in the world is not all about the combat. Along with enemies, players will be facing a series of traps such as laser grids, auto-turrets, explosive barrels, and more. This puzzle-like set up lends itself very well in some segments, I believe this is where the developers had the opportunity to get creative with the level design and likely had some fun in the experimentation phase. These segments also help the player learn to handle various situations without anything holding their hand.
Though Mr. Shifty does all of those things well, there were a few things that took me out of the experience at some points. During these moments, it felt as if the developers took all creativity and threw it out the window and said “In this room we just just bombard the player with tons of enemies.” In those situations, things get way too chaotic and end up being hard to keep up with. When too many enemies are on screen as you are zipping around the stage, it becomes hard to see where you are at along with any weapons you could pick up and any laser sights that could be pointed right at you. At that point, the game becomes all about controlling the chaos more than anything.
When it comes to the plot, things are fairly simple: your goal is to steal a uranium core from a corporation that plans to use it for an evil task. The setting gives off a classic Die Hard vibe as you are infiltrating what is said to be the most secure building in the world. We do not know much about our titular hero known as Shifty, and we never learn anything throughout our mission. The character that does add a bit of flair to our objective is Shifty’s female handler by the name of Nyx. She guides Shifty through the facility and motivates him to kick some bad guy tail, and later comments on Shifty’s hero-like recklessness as things begin to heat up when you progress to a certain point.
Unfortunately, the presentation itself falls on the same level where the plot also sits—pretty bare-bones. I do like the comic-book art style; the developers have captured a style that was clearly an inspiration for the character and concept of Mr. Shifty. The stages are designed very well which I have already said, but every stage retains the corporate theme as you move through the various rooms and hallways. Even the soundtrack is also fairly minimal, including only seven tracks, and yet there are only two that are used during actual gameplay. Players will teleport right through all 18 stages at about four hours. It was probably a wise decision to not get crazy with the amount of stages. One downside to Mr. Shifty is that it is a quick burn that is only good for a single playthrough.
I must say that my hopes were indeed high for Mr. Shifty. The theme and concept was right up my alley and the result was unfortunately disappointment. I really did enjoy the time I had put in at first. I went into it feeling empowered. I would look into an area and examine my environment to then be able to handle the situation the way I saw fit. About halfway through was when I was taken out of experience. I was then reminded that this was just another video game. Due to the fact that the game is only good for one playthrough, I cannot strongly recommend it even on the Switch due to some serious technical issues that have come up on that platform. I like everything that Mr. Shifty is trying to do, but it has just slightly missed its mark.
Review copy generouslly provided by Tinybuild
The Bottom Line
Mr. Shifty boasts some unique combat and gameplay elements that has the player getting creative throughout its 18 stages. Unfortunately, even with a cool comic book-inspired art style, the game feels plain. At a length of only 4 hours, players will likely teleport through this one and never come back.