Game Review | Mr. Shifty

 A single drop of sweat streaked down the side of the guard’s forehead.

Gripping his rifle a bit too tightly, he trained the laser dot on the door ahead of him. Eight other red dots danced in a tight circle on the doorway, all placed there by the rest of his team around him in a semi-circle. Would it be enough? They hadn’t heard anything on the comms from the floors below in over an hour, and Chairman Stone had made it clear that if the intruder made it past them, their jobs would be the least of their worries.

The guard never heard the blow that sent him flying through the plate glass window to his death 7 stories below. All he heard was a slight pop of displaced air from the other side of the laser polka dotted door before he found himself outside the building, plunging rapidly.

“Well, this cool breeze is nice,” was his last thought.

Our unfortunate guard was knocked out by Mr. Shifty, who has powers similar to Marvel’s Nightcrawler. Teleporting in a puff of air, he can move instantly about 10 feet through walls, a bullet’s path, or a swarm of angry guards. Guided by his commander Nyx with helpful advice like “Don’t Die”, and “Keep Not Dying”, Mr Shifty tries to infiltrate a secure building to retrieve mega-plutonium from the clutches of evil Chairman Stone who has dastardly plans for it. That’s it as far as story, but it hardly matters, because the fun in playing Mr. Shifty is teleporting through various rooms, outwitting guards and evading death traps.

Playing as Mr. Shifty is a blast. Teleporting through a wall behind an enemy, punching him so hard he slams the couch behind him into thousandss of splinters, and then punching the door off its frame into another baddie coming to investigate is deeply satisfying. You almost feel invincible as you circle the room in short leaps, flanking enemies, appearing in their midst, then blinking out again. Fortunately to preserve challenge Mr. Shifty dies with one hit, giving the player even more motivation to keep moving. Another limit to Mr. Shifty’s invincibility is a cooldown period after five jumps. Teleport too fast, too often, and Mr. Shifty may find himself in a corner with a gun barrel pointed at him.

Many of the rooms in the secure building have traps or hazards for Mr. Shifty to outwit. There are mobile and stationary lasers, turrents, control panels that need keys, and a few other surprises. Environmental puzzles are suited well to Mr. Shifty’s powers, and give the player a chance to breathe between brawls.

Visually you cannot help but compare this to Hotline Miami. The secure building is viewed from a top down perspective, with all rooms behind closed doors visible. Unfortunately, Mr Shifty doesn’t share Hotline’s great soundtrack, but rather one repetitive although catchy theme. As in Hotline, you can pick up weapons along the way, although only melee weapons like sticks, or objects that can be thrown. For some unknown reason, Mr. Shifty has an aversion to guns, although he hardly needs them.

Besides the ability to teleport, Mr. Shifty has a powerful punch. When he punches foes back, they fly several feet, and destroy whatever furniture or walls are in their trajectory. Objects like boxes and statues shatter into many pieces, although the particle effects for the Switch version seem to be dialed down a bit. Regardless of which version you’re playing, the destructible environment adds a lot to the satisfying feeling of connecting a solid blow to an enemy.

A quick note about the Switch version: it plays great. Mr. Shifty is great on the go, with relatively short rooms within each level. You might not get through a whole floor while waiting for the bus, but you can always put the Switch in sleep mode and pick it up later. The game runs as smoothly as its PC brother, with the exception of more often 1/4 second hitches. These pauses were also present in the PC version, but much less frequent. I never suffered a loss of life with these pauses, and the game has smooth framerates in both versions otherwise.

Final Verdict

Mr. Shifty is worth picking up despite repetitive music and level design simply because it’s a blast to zip around the room, picking off hapless guards one by one. Mr. Shifty feels like the same type of apex predator as Keanu Reeve’s John Wick when he enters a room. Like Keanu, Mr. Shifty glides through each conflict like a teflon coated shark, landing devastating blows in his unstoppable progress towards his goal.

And it feels good to be the teflon coated shark.

Mr. Shifty launches April 13 on Steam and the Nintendo Switch. A copy of both versions was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Tim Bledsoe

Podcasts & Single-player games are his thing except on "Adventure Time Tuesdays"