If you’ve played a lot of free games on sites, the experience here might seem familiar to you. Mr. Shifty is a quality overhead brawler for those who enjoy action-heavy games.
Developer: Team Shifty
Release Date: 13 April, 2017
I got Mr. Shifty (MS) from a monthly Humble Bundle back in January 2018, as it generally reminded me of free games I’d played online before. Where I’d have to face off against overwhelming amounts of enemies in basic stages, but am able to call upon a unique power that would help me overcome those odds. Being able to dash about short distances isn’t the most incredible ability, but it can still be incorporated into a game well, and I need to play this game at some point. Why not now?
Although MS revolves around short-distance teleporting, which you can use up to 5 times before needing to let your power recharge, he is a melee fighter at heart. So you’ll have to get up close and personal in order to beat up the enemies in the area. However, you are able to pick up melee-based weaponry, such as brooms and tridents. There will be foes who take the same approach, but most of them pragmatically arm themselves with guns and fire at a distance. Your secondary ability comes from maintaining enough attacks to build up and fill a bar at the bottom of the screen. When full, it’ll give you a free dodge against an attack that should have killed you, activating a short duration of bullet-time, where you can get in several attacks on foes before they can retaliate.
Across the 18 floors of the skyscraper, each one is broken up into several rooms, each of which acts as a checkpoint where you’ll respawn if an enemy kills you. This makes the game much more viable, as even though there are difficult obstacles to overcome, you get reasonable checkpoints. Sometimes though, what’s more dangerous than the goons, are the stage hazards, such as mines, laser beams, and heat-seeking missiles. Any attack kills you instantly, so it doesn’t matter what trips you up, as they’re all equally lethal.
I played through MS with my controller, as the developers recommend, and found them to be responsive and functional. My dozens of death along the way never felt like the controls screwing up on me, so I have nothing to complain about here. Movement is controlled with the ‘L joystick.’ Picking up objects and throwing them is done with ‘B,’ though you can also swing them by hitting ‘X,’ which is also how you use melee attacks. Activating your teleporting move is done with ‘A,’ with the small icon on screen showing where you’ll wind up teleporting to. It’s fairly short distant, so at times you’ll want to do it multiple times in a row.
You play as the titular Mr. Shifty, who can phase through solid objects, and acts as a free agent to prevent scoundrels from amassing devastating devices. The objective of this mission is to break into the skyscraper fortress of such a lout, Chairman Stone, who has hold of Mega Plutonium. As you clear floors, short conversations will take place between the main character and villain, who somehow thinks that breaking into an incredibly wealth and powerful man’s estate isn’t making good use of Mr. Shifty’s ability. I’m not sure what the reason for it was, but Mr. Shifty is a silent protagonist, which doesn’t really work very well since his responses to friend and foe alike would add another element to the story. Like any action movie, by the time the game ends, it’s just these two men left standing, and their final battle will determine who walks away with it all. It’s fairly stock, but I appreciate having an ongoing narrative as you play.
Visually, this game reminds me of a cell-shaded, comic book style composed in Flash. It’s not bad by any means, it just looks simple. The overhead view of MS gives the player enough of an overview of the environment to see where any threats might be. This does limit how much detail both NPCs and the main character have, but since each enemy type is designated by distinct clothing items and body type, it’s easy to identify them. Plus, when speaking, an image of the character is shown over the text box, though it’s still on the fairly plain side. A nice touch is when walls and background objects get destroyed from the brawl and bodies flying about.
After looking up the OST of MS on YouTube, I was quite surprised that it only has 6 songs in total. They’re pretty similar to each other, with all of them utilizing a quick tempo, and instrumentation that revolved around a drum set and guitars. Normally I’d call for greater versatility, which wouldn’t have hurt anything, but the gameplay is consistent throughout, so it didn’t need to change up the music for different tones and situations. The firing weapons and crashing of bodies into furniture is satisfying, so I have no complaints with how the sound was done in MS.
- Aside from some frustrating sections, the action is rather satisfying in MS. Beating up several hapless goons, while darting in and out of precarious situations, is very gratifying. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
- It’s a neat twist when your power is used more effectively by the bad guy, showing what could really be done with this ability if it were fully exploited with some high-end gadgetry.
- The checkpoints save the game, as it’d otherwise be a huge hassle to finish.
- Your life-saving slow-mo effect is a double-edged blade, as it does prevent you from dying instantly. However, it can trigger from you carelessly being hit by a single enemy, leading to it being wasted instead of when you’re surrounded by enemies and really need it. Only being able to build up a single bar of this ability is cumbersome.
- The action tends to fluctuate and jerk oddly in MS, as you’ll have several low-key areas, before suddenly coming across a large mob of foes. Then it’ll slow down again for a while. It feels a bit jarring at times.
- There’s decent variety in the stage hazards and enemies, but by the time you finish MS, they’ve started getting routine and boring.
- If you waste your bullet-time ability on a single enemy, it’s sometimes worthwhile to die so you don’t lose it. After all, the next room you come across might be a treacherous trap, and you’ll want that ace in the hole as back-up.
- Most of the time I played the game at a slow and steady pace, but there are situations where you’ll want to be more aggressive and quick-paced. It’s sometimes the approach needed to get past a tough spot.
- The enemy AI can be manipulated and exploited to a comical extent. Knocking on walls to draw a straggler’s attention and thin the herd is a basic move you’ll use all throughout the game.
Overall, everything I experienced in MS was about what I anticipated. It was incredibly average and seemed quite predictable, even with my expectation of encountering troublesome set-ups that’d irk me. The overhead action means that it isn’t a platformer, but the layout of stages still utilized the terrain and obstacles to both empathize ways you could overcome hazards, while also boxing you in and forcing you to deal with situations designed to counter your teleporting ability. These could get annoying, but even on the hardest floors, I never got stuck for too long as the difficulty was kept in check. With this game generally reminding me of ones I’ve played in the past, I don’t think it did anything that stood out, good or bad, except for the useless jabber from your back-up, Nyx. I’d say it isn’t a bad experience though, so I’d recommend it overall. Unless you’re an achievement hound though, there isn’t much reason to play the game again after you beat it.