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REVIEW: Mr. Shifty

Title Mr. Shifty
Developer Team Shifty
Publisher tinyBuild
Release Date April 13, 2017
Genre Action
Platform PC, Switch
Age Rating N/A
Official Website

A few months back, I had the brief opportunity to preview Mr. Shifty and found it to be a promising looking beat ’em up game. The controls were smooth, and the action was cool, stylish, and most importantly fun. It also had a very fun and unique dodging system that brought a fresh idea to the genre. Now that the full game has been released, did it live up to my initial impressions?

In Mr. Shifty, you play as a man named Mr. Shifty who has the unique ability to teleport through walls and other objects, known as “shifting.” Using his ability, you’ll be climbing through a large tower to steal a very dangerous weapon. The only catch is, this facility is apparently supposed to the world’s most secure facility. The story never makes much of a lasting impression, but instead takes a minimalist approach and just gives the game incentive to keep moving forward. I really liked this approach, as it kept me immersed in the fantastic action. Occasionally there are some funny dialogue lines that pop up during tense situations, such as Nyx telling you her strategy is for you to “keep not dying.”

Mr. Shifty | Keep not dying.

Mr. Shify is a top down perspective beat ’em up game that focuses entirely on creating a frantic but fun experience. From the very start of the game, Mr. Shifty wastes almost no time in throwing you into the action, with a short intro cutscene that only lasts a few seconds. After literally bursting through a wall in what is supposed to be a secure facility, you take control of our protagonist, Mr. Shifty, and are immediately introduced to one of the game’s main draws, the ability to shift through walls and other inanimate objects. With this ability, simply pressing the dodge button next to almost any wall, pillar, desk, and much more, will let you instantly teleport through the object, and on to the other side of whatever it is you shifted through.

The mechanic of shifting through things adds a whole new level of fun to be had. You can knock on a wall to get an enemies’ attention, and as they come through the door to where they heard the knock, you can just shift through the wall and run in behind them, leaving them unable to act. It’s little things like this that make Mr. Shifty feel like a fresh take on the beat ’em up genre. Of course, an awesome ability like that does have some restrictions. At the bottom of the screen, you’ll have 5 blue squares that deplete one at a time whenever you use your ability. They do regenerate quickly, but should you use all 5 squares too quickly, it will take a longer time to regenerate, leaving you very vulnerable to enemies.

Mr. Shifty | Cleverly shift through objects and walls to defeat your enemies before they defeat you!

It’s that vulnerability that also makes Mr. Shifty feel fresh and fun. Instead of having any kind of health bar, you die in one hit, no matter what. While that may sound incredibly frustrating, there are frequent enough check points between each screen you enter, and most of the time the game is balanced well enough that it isn’t frustrating. There were a few times near the end of the game, specifically one segment in the very last stage, that felt incredibly frustrating, but moments like that are not that frequent, thankfully. Additionally, you do have a bar above your shift count that increases as you attack enemies, but also quickly depletes if you don’t continue attacking. When this bar is full, a well timed dodge of an enemy attack will slow down time, allowing you to really do some damage to your enemies. Despite enemy attacks being greatly slowed down, you still can be killed during this mode, so it’s important to be mindful of any bullets that may be coming your way.

Most of the time while fighting your enemies, you’ll just be attacking them with your bare fists, but every so often you’ll find a weapon laying around the environment. Alternatively, if you destroy things in the environment, like a table or book shelf, you may get to use parts of it as a weapon. The weapons in Mr. Shifty are extremely useful and can really make a difficult situation go much smoother. Instead of most enemies dying in 2-4 hits from your fists, weapons will kill any enemy in the game in one hit. The catch is that weapons will generally break after two or three hits. There are even some one-time use weapons that can be thrown at enemies, such as keyboards, coffee mugs, and what is probably the deadliest weapon of all, a pillow. There are also some segments every now and then where the game gives you a plethora of weapons, and wave after wave of enemies to fight. Moments like these don’t happen too often, but when they do, they just feel so satisfying, defeating hordes of enemies with a ton of steel bars.

Mr. Shiftty | Lining up for my trident

Every so often Mr. Shifty will throw some fun diversions and challenges your way, so you won’t always be fighting off enemies. Occasionally there will be segments where a wall of lasers will chase you down a hallway full of explosive barrels and enemies. These segments will have you thinking about when is the best time to use your shifting ability to avoid all the obstacles coming at you. While these sections aren’t particularly difficult, it can be easy to make a mistake during them considering all that you’re up against, while also being stalked by an instant death laser.

Probably the biggest challenges in the game lie in sections where an anti-shift force field is in effect. While in these areas, your ability to shift is unavailable, which leaves you unable to dodge any enemy attacks. The only way to restore your shift ability is to either make it through the area alive, or destroy the generator that’s powering the force field. Doing either of those isn’t always easy however. Sometimes you’ll be forced to navigate around carefully positioned enemies with flamethrowers, which will fire at you as soon as you try to break the generator.

Mr. Shifty | The greatest challenge

Visually, the game is a bright and colorful with some nice cel shading. The environments themselves look simple but good thanks to some great level design that is set up in a way where you can make use of your shifting ability. I wish I could speak so highly on the music side of things, but I found the music to be forgettable, except for the level complete theme. Nothing felt more relieving then hearing the stage end theme after fighting a difficult wave of enemies that lasted for a while. The rest of the music, while not bad while playing the game, does get over used in a lot of stages. The sound effects, however, are great. Every attack you land on an enemy feels impactful, and the slowdown of the visuals and audio as you fail a mission are a nice touch.

Overall, Mr. Shifty is a fun and satisfying beat ’em up game. Combining an interesting and fun dodging mechanic along with the one hit death system, Mr. Shifty manages to be a fantastic and fresh take on the genre that I never got tired of in the 5 hours it took me to finish all 18 levels. For only $14.99, I definitely think Mr. Shifty is worth your time and money, especially if you’re looking for a fun and somewhat challenging beat ’em up game.

Review Score

Review copy provided by publisher.

Ashley Ring
Ashley is an IT professional who has a passion for Japanese RPG's and survival horror.