PAX West 2018: Shift Quantum

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

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Shift is apparently a series of games with a considerable amount of history. I was largely unaware of it, but apparently it started as a flash-based browser game developed by Armor Games back in 2008, with three sequels. There have also been a number of games considered to be part of the same series released on consoles and handhelds, with the newest iteration being Shift Quantum, developed by Fishing Cactus and published by Red Panda Interactive.

Shift Quantum | Spikes

Shift Quantum, along with the Shift series as a whole, is a puzzle-platformer where levels are divided into black and white areas. At any given time one of the colors is solid and the other is open, and the player has the ability to switch them and rotate the stage 180 degrees at any time. The player’s goal is to navigate their way to the level’s exit, and there’s also an extra collectible to pick up along the way on each stage. Naturally there’s more to the game than just the color-changing; there’s a variety of other mechanics thrown in, such as colored moving blocks to create either a platform or an open space, fans that can blow the player up to new areas or into spikes, switches that make certain areas either appear or disappear, and switches that rotate the stage. The visual style is naturally very stark and monochrome, with only the occasional very minor splash of color.

Shift Quantum | Inverted

The general concept in Shift Quantum seems simple, but I had a hard time properly getting my head around it during my demo session. For some reason the combination of the stage flipping and the colors inverting was too much for me to properly take account for sometimes, although I was getting better at it as the demo progressed. The puzzles I played were all well-designed, making good use of the various mechanics to make something challenging but never feeling unfair. There was only one time when I got somewhat stumped, and all it meant was that I had to leave the level without getting the secret even though I knew where it was. That was frustrating, but I think given enough time I could’ve worked out how to get it and also finish the level. In general though it was always rewarding to finally finish a level, especially the times that I also managed to pick up the special collectible. I’m curious to see what other kinds of puzzles and mechanics appear in the game, and other ways that it uses the ones that I saw in the demo.

Shift Quantum | Switch blocks

Fortunately, for those interested, the game is already available on Steam, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One, having released back on May 29. In addition to the over 100 regular levels, the game also includes a level editor, and the ability to share created levels online and play those created by other players.

About Chris Melchin

Chris is a computer science student who has been gaming ever since he knew what to do with a Super Nintendo controller. He's a fighting game player, with a focus on BlazBlue and Under Night In-Birth games. His favourite games include Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Persona 5, and Little Busters. He started watching anime in high school, and his favourite series is Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. He also writes Vocaloid music for his personal YouTube channel, and has a (slight) obsession with Megurine Luka.